What if doctors were able to identify, with a simple blood test, when a patient’s cancer was starting to make a return? Or that a person’s disease was so well treated it would not return?
"Now that we know so much more about tumors and the immune system, we can start utilizing our immune system in the context of gene therapy technology. That means the cell therapies we currently have are a proven principle."
Immunotherapy is different because it uses your own immune system to boost your defensive response to cancer, or to help it find and attack cancer cells.
If the patient’s cancer didn’t respond to chemotherapy and radiation, options were limited other than a wait-and-see approach. But new research has found that the introduction of an immunotherapy medication can dramatically improve their response.
Side effects may occur during or after treatment and may occur anywhere in the body and many side effects are treatable.
“The immune system is a powerful tool, and only in the last decade have we really begun to tap into its potential as a cancer-fighting powerhouse,” Dr. Puzanov says.
“Before you begin treatment, you should feel good knowing that you have done your due diligence, you are confident that you have received the correct diagnosis, and you are comfortable with your medical team and your treatment plan,” says Dr. Frederick.
A second opinion at Roswell Park led to an immunotherapy clinical trial that gave ovarian cancer patient Julia Falleti more time with her family.
Dr. Clinton willingly traveled from Ohio to Buffalo every month, and sometimes more often, because the clinical trial “was the most advanced immunological treatment for my genetic type of cancer.
“Other than a shot once a month, I’m in no pain,“ Judi says. “Instead, I’ve already lived three years longer than I thought I would at the beginning of this diagnosis. I’m happy to be alive and feeling well, and one day, I hope to ring that Victory Bell at Roswell Park.”
“It’s so easy, I feel like I’m getting away with something.” That’s how Nella Smolinksi describes the last three years of treatment with an immunotherapy drug to control her rare form of Hodgkin lymphoma.
Learn how the side effects of immunotherapy may differ from those of chemotherapy.