What Cancer Immunotherapy Clinical Trials Involve

When a new drug is at the clinical trial stage, it has passed all the other steps of testing including trying it on animals. The only thing pending is approval from the Food and Drugs Board. The clinical trials are commonly used on different types of cancer that have become very aggressive. Although your doctor may not mention them, ask him/her the next time you see him. Some people have been delighted with the effects of the trial drugs. Thus, the term immunotherapy clinical trials stand for drugs that are yet to be approved but are at that stage where they can be tested on human beings to cure diseases like cancers.

What You Need to Know about Clinical Trials and the Phases Involved

Before you enroll yourself in a clinical trial, it is essential to ask your doctor all the questions that you may have. Let the doctor explain to you the possible side effects of using the specific drug. You should be aware of the expected results. Even from home, you should be able to tell if the medication is working as expected or something has gone wrong. Another question that you need to ask is about the finances. Who will cover the medical expenses? In most cases, the drug sponsor covers some of the cost of the treatment using his/her medicine for the clinical trial. Your insurance will pay for some of the expenses like consultation fees. Clinical trial drugs are administered in phases. The first stage will have very few people, and the number will increase as you approach phase four. The doctor will be observing how different people react to the drug and how it should be administered. The doctor will also find the right dose to fight a particular type of cancer.

An Example of a Successful Immunotherapy Clinical Trial Drug/Case

One successful case when clinical trial drugs have been used to cure cancer is in the use of CAR T cell therapy. The treatment relies heavily on the use of T cells to fight antigens and pathogens. The T cells are the primary disease-fighting cells in the body. The doctors will get some T cells from the patient’s blood, and then genetically engineer the cells to produce chimeric antigen receptors (CAR) which will help fight the pathogens in the tumor. When the genetically engineered CAR T cells are taken back to the patient’s body, they replicate and fight the cancerous cells. In August 2017, the use of CAR T cell therapy was approved. It is now legal to use it when treating acute lymphoblastic leukemia in children. Soon a second therapy will be recommended for used in adults with advanced lymphomas. Before the approval of CAR T therapy was only used in patients with advanced blood cancers.

The Benefits and Risks of Using Clinical Trial as Your Treatment Option

The benefits of using immunotherapy clinical trials are many. Both the patient and the researchers or doctors who are behind the clinical trial drug will benefit. The patient will get access to a drug that is not available to the general public. He or she will also get a chance of beating cancer since many patients have successfully fought cancer with clinical trial drugs. The treatment is also safe to the patient. As of the doctors, by administering the medication to patients, they will be a step closer to making the drug approved. As a patient, you will have helped the doctors come close to getting a lasting solution of curing cancer.

The drugs have some risks too. The most common risks being the fact that the drug may not work on your body. Even when it works, there will be some unforeseen side effects that you will have to experience. Your insurance company will not cover some costs.

Side Effects of Immunotherapy and How They Are Treated

As we all know, almost all drugs have side effects. Immunotherapy also has some side effects that it causes to the patients despite the fact that it does not affect healthy cells as chemotherapy and radiotherapy do. Fortunately, doctors have ways of dealing with these side effects to ensure patients comfort and good health is maintained.

Below are some of the side effects and how they are treated.

Skin Problems

50% percent of patients under immunotherapy present with a skin reaction. The skin may turn red, pale or even yellow. It could also be itching, swelling, reddening or even have pain at the site where the drugs are injected into the body. Also, the patient can present with mouth sores and blisters. However, using warm water with unscented soap while bathing or showering reduces swelling of the skin. The patient should apply a less scented oil or lotion to moisturize the skin to prevent cracking as well as to sooth the skin. Patients should avoid staying out in the sun, and if they have to, they should consider using the sunscreen to prevent their skin from further damage from the sun rays. In addition, topical corticosteroids can also be used in cases of rash and oral antipruritic. If symptoms do not clear up, patients should see a dermatologist for prescription of a stronger cream or antibiotics.

Autoimmune Disorders

Unlike chemotherapy and radiotherapy, immunotherapy does not target all cells in the body. It works on specific tumor cells hence it is preferentially used than other types of therapies. However, some drugs have a powerful effect that they attack the healthy cells and organs. These cause inflammation of the lungs known as pneumonitis which causes shortness of breath as well as chest pain. It also causes inflamed eyes and poor bowel movement hence hindering the normal functioning of the body systems. Endocrine disorders also present and it is characterized by hormonal changes in the body. It presents with symptoms like fatigue, headache, mood changes, rapid heartbeats and hair loss. Some of these conditions are fatal while others are mild and treatment is given according to the severity. Doctors, therefore, prescribe corticosteroids depending on the seriousness of the disease. Corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory drugs that are prescribed to reduce inflammation of tissues and organs. Nevertheless, corticosteroids side effects should be monitored as they cause weight gain.

Flu-like Symptoms

This is yet another syndrome that presents with so many symptoms, therefore, lacking a one-way treatment. Doctors treat one symptom at a time as it shows. Different therapies are prescribed. Not many drugs are taken due to these symptoms as most of them are managed using supportive measures. These symptoms include; chills, weakness, dizziness, fever nausea dry cough joint pain as well as muscle pain. Pain is controlled by taking over the counter drugs. Severe vomiting and diarrhea, however, needs close monitoring and a stronger medication. Stomach aches and nausea are managed at home whereby the doctor teaches the patients on how to handle them at home. For instance, in case of stomach ache, the doctor will advise one to take cold food that has less smell. For a patient who is vomiting, sips of ice water, juice and ginger prevent one from feeling nausea hence the patient cannot vomit anymore. These are among the measures that are taken to ensure that the patient is comfortable with the immunotherapy that he is receiving.

Management of the side effects associated with immunotherapy is vital as it increases the comfortability of the patient during treatment. It also overcomes treatment withdrawal due to nuisance side effects that can discourage the patients from using immunotherapy treatment.

Risks and Side Effects of Immunotherapy

Like any other cancer treatment method, immunotherapy has its imperfections. Immunotherapy aims at improving the body’s defense mechanism so that your body can fight the cancerous cells on its own. The body will ensure that the white blood cells and lymph system work well in curtailing the spread of cancer. Your doctor will advise you to go for immunotherapy if you have the following types of cancer, breast, colon, prostate, liver, ovarian and bran among other types of cancers. Some of the risks and side effects associated with Immunotherapy include;

Not Everybody Responds to It, and It Takes Time to Bear Results

So far, immunotherapy has only worked on 50 percent of the patients who have tried it as a treatment option. It is not clear why the treatment is not working on some patients. Studies are still ongoing to get better approach of administering immunotherapy. There are also many drugs that are yet to be approved and be used in immunotherapy. When you choose immunotherapy as your treatment option, be patient, the results won’t come overnight. The cancer cells won’t die as fast as they do with other treatment options. The body will take some time before it can have the required defense mechanism to attack all the cancerous cells in your body. It is important to note that with time, the body may adopt and get used to the drugs administered. In this case, cancer will still be spreading even if you are still under medication.

Cause Mouth Sores and Destroys Other Major Organs

The mouth sores are as a result of damage to the cells in your mouth and throats. The cell damage is a side effect of the drugs administered by your doctor as part of the immunotherapy procedure. Both the mouth and the throat will thus be prone to infections. The sores preset themselves between five to fourteen days after the treatment commences. The condition of having painful mouth sores is referred to as mucositis. By observing proper dental hygiene, you will lower the breakout o the sores greatly. Another detrimental side effect of immunotherapy is the malfunctioning of major organs such as the heart, liver, and kidney. The medication used interferes with normal functioning of the organs posing a significant risk to your health. Some patients report having heart palpitations from time to time. Others complain of having a stuffy head. The treatment also increases the risk of having blood clots.

Brings about Skin Reactions and Flu-like Symptoms

You are likely to get a sore, turn red or a swell at the point where the treatment is administered into your body. Due to this irritation on the skin, some people become more sensitive to sunlight. Others will have cracks around the fingernails. The delicate skin makes the patients scratch a lot thus exposing them to more infections. The dryness of the skin combined with inflammation of the nails makes it hard to carry out any task smoothly. Every small role becomes painful and dreadful. Some of the drugs used in immunotherapy will make you have flu-like symptoms. You will feel fatigued most of the time, nauseated, experience chills, at times vomit and you will be weak and dizzy. If you are experiencing these symptoms, seek guidance from your doctor and stay hydrated at all times.

Immunotherapy can be administered alone or alongside other treatment like chemotherapy or radiation. Allow your doctor to advice on the best treatment option for you.

Treatment of Cancer by Immunotherapy

Cancer treatment has been enhanced globally due to increased chances of people getting cancer as technology improves. Procedures like surgery, radiotherapy as well as chemotherapy have been put in place in a more advanced way than it was before. Nevertheless, immunotherapy is another type of cancer treatment that has been used for few decades, and it has helped in treating patients with lung, lymphoma, melanoma cancers and many other types of cancer that have shown up.

Immunotherapy is used depending on the type of cancer; the extent of disease whereby it works well if the cancer has not reached its advanced stage. Besides, it is also used in conjunction with chemotherapy or even after surgery. Immunotherapy mainly uses the patients’ immune system to fight cancer. In this case, immunotherapies work by boosting the immune systems hence the body can fight cancer cells thereby preventing them from growing and spreading to other body parts. These therapies also work by teaching the immune system how to attack specific cells found in tumors.

There are different types of immunotherapies as discussed below;

Antibody Therapy

These antibodies work by finding cancer cells in the body after which the cancer cells are destroyed and killed by the immune system. Antibodies are proteins found in the immune system that work by recognizing foreign antigens in the body and after that stimulating an immune response. Monoclonal antibodies are manmade and are the commonly used type of antibodies in the treatment of cancer. Naked and conjugated monoclonal antibodies are widely used in the treatment of cancer. Naked monoclonal antibodies purely enhance the immune system to attack cancer cells and have nothing attached to them. Conjugated monoclonal antibodies, on the other hand, have both radioactive particles and chemotherapy. These particles attach to the cancer cells hence releasing medicine to the cells thereby killing them. Conjugated monoclonal antibodies reduce the side effects and promote best results of chemotherapy and radiotherapy to patients. Most of these monoclonal antibodies are injected into the patient’s veins, and they are sometimes paired with other treatments like chemotherapy or hormone therapy.

Checkpoint Inhibitors

The immune system has to recognize cells to identify which cells are supposed to be attacked. Healthy cells have substances called checkpoints that identify them hence no destruction can be done to them. However, cancer turns these brakes off enabling the immune system to identify the normal cells thus hiding the tumors. Checkpoint inhibitors are drugs that help the immune system to recognize these tumor cells so that they cannot hide. These cells are identified and killed therefore hindering growth and spread of cancerous cells to other body parts. Ipilimumab, nivolumab, atezolizumab are among the examples of checkpoint inhibitors drugs that are being used in cancer patients. They treat neck, head, and lung and bladder cancers among many other cancers that have not advanced to the last stage. Checkpoints PD-1 and PDL-1 are found on the T.cells of the immune systems and are inhibited by PD-1 and PDL-1 inhibitors. In this case, these inhibitors treat melanoma, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and kidney cancers.
Cancer vaccines, cytokine therapy, and dendritic cell therapy are also types of immunotherapy that patients receive from cancer centers to improve their health as well as boost their immunity. Immunotherapy has put some patients away from chemotherapy which has adverse side effects that deteriorate the body defense mechanism of patients. In other words, immunotherapy has improved the health of patients with cancer as they do not have to rely on chemotherapy or radiotherapy to hinder growth and spread of cancer.