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Cancer is a deadly disease and being diagnosed with one is devastating. However, with advancement in medical science, you can fight this dreadful disease, promote your health, and prolong your life by means of Immunotherapy. Find out how we can help you regain your strength and immunity through experienced medical team and progressive treatments catered individually for you.
Immunotherapy, also known as Biological therapy or Biotherapy is a treatment to fight some cancers by boosting our body’s immune system. Substances found in the body or man-made immune system proteins are used to improve or restore the body’s natural defence system. Therefore, Immunotherapy may:
- Help the immune system be better at destroying cancer cells
- Stop or slow cancer cells
- Stop cancer cells from spreading to other parts of the body.
For some types of cancer, Immunotherapy works better. Sometimes, it is because some immune cells are not functioning or not available enough to create an immune response. This is still an ongoing research. Immunotherapy is either used by itself or used with other types of treatment depending on the type of cancer.
Most people who have had Immunotherapy are those who have had advanced cancer. This means that their cancer has recurred or spread after having a primary treatment. It could also mean they are diagnosed with an advanced cancer stage for the first time.
The immune system consists of the white blood cells, spleen and lymph glands. It functions to protect the body against illness, infections and diseases including development of cancer by spotting and destroying abnormal cells in the body. However, cancer cells multiply when the immune system is not strong enough to kill them. Cancer cells can also send signals to the immune system to stop attacking. These cells hide or escape from the immune system.
Indications for Immunotherapy
Immunotherapy can be treated for the following cancers:
- Ovarian cancer
- Colorectal cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Breast cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Lung cancer
- Leukaemias, Lymphomas and Myelomas
Types of Immunotherapy
- Monoclonal Antibodies (MABs) – when the immune system detects something harmful in the body, it produces antibodies. These antibodies are proteins to fight infections. MAB is a man-made specific type of therapy which can be used in many ways.As an Immunotherapy, MAB is used to trigger the immune system by attaching to protein of cancer cells making it easier for the cells of the immune system to find and attack the cancer cells. This procedure is called antibody dependent cell mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC).Many cancer cells block the immune system. MAB work as immune check point inhibitors to stop the block or slow the cancer cells.
- Cancer Vaccines – vaccines are made to detect proteins particular on cancer cells. The triggered immune system recognises and attacks these cancer cells. Vaccines come in two types – prevention vaccines and treatment vaccines.
- Non-specific Immunotherapies – these also help fight cancer cells and boost the immune system in a general way. They are given along side other cancer treatments like chemotherapy or radio therapy or after it. Some non-specific immunotherapies are also given as a main cancer treatment.Two common types are Interferon which slows the growth of cancer cells and Interleukins which produce cells from the immune system to destroy cancer. They are used to treat kidney cancer and skin cancer including melanoma.
- T-cell Therapy – T-cells are the cells of the immune system that fights infection. Some T-cells are taken from the body and scientifically engineered as receptors to recognise cancer cells. These T-cells are grown in large numbers in the laboratory and given back to the body through an IV to destroy cancer cells. This therapy is called chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy. It is very effective in treating certain blood cancers.
- Oncolyic Virus Therapy – this therapy uses genetically modified viruses to kill cancer cells. The virus is injected into the tumour and enter the cancer cells where it makes copies of itself. This causes the cells to burst and die. As it dies it produces antigens which the immune system recognises and kills them. The virus does not enter in the healthy cells.
How Immunotherapy is administered
Different forms of Immunotherapy are given in different ways as mentioned below:
- Intravenous (IV) – administered directly in a vein
- Intravesical– it goes directly in the bladder
- Oral– can be swallowed as pills or capsules
- Topical– can be rubbed on the skin as a cream. It is usually meant for very early form of skin cancer.
- Your doctor will check your overall health.
- Your doctor will examine the type and stage of your cancer.
- Your treatment history will also be considered.
- Tests will be given to see how your body responds to allergens.
- After all assessments are done, your doctor will decide whether you are a suitable candidate to receive Immunotherapy.
- Discus possible side effects you could be experiencing with your doctor.
- If you are given T-cells therapy, your T-cells will be extracted from your body and grow in a laboratory for about 2 – 8 weeks.
- Dependng on your cancer type and stage, you may receive it along with or after your chemotherapy or radio therapy.
- Treatment may be given to you in a repeating cycle like 2 – 3 weeks with a period of rest for 1 week.
- Treatment may also be given every day, every week or on a monthly basis.
- If you are getting therapy by itself, you will receive treatment in a clinic or hospital as an outpatient.
- The number of therapies you get depends on the type and stage of your cancer, type of Immunotherapy, along with how well your body responds to the treatment.
- If you are experiencing side effects, inform your doctor immediately as early reports are better managed.
- It may take a while to see the effects of Immunotherapy
- Your doctor will take regular check-ups including physical examinations, blood tests and scans to see the size of your tumour and how the treatment affects your blood
- Some people experience worsening of their cancer before improvement begins
- In some cases, the cancer remains stable where it neither increases nor decreases. Patients can still enjoy a good quality life.
Risks and Complications
Side effects can be experienced with Immunotherapy. The type of side effects experienced varies from person to person depending on the type of cancer and Immunotherapy administered. Some of the more common side effects are as follows:
- Dry and irritated eyes
- Flu like symptoms
- Heart palpitations
- Change in vision
- Thyroid related issues
- Pain in the joints
- Severe abdominal pain
- Bloody stools
- Shortness of breath
- Dark urine
- Skin rashes
Factors affecting the cost of Immunotherapy
The price may vary due to the following factors:
- Type and stage of cancer
- Type of Immunotherapy
- Number of cycles
- Location of the hospital
- Choice of hospital
- Cost of diagnostic tests
- Surgeon’s fee
- Medical treatment
- Duration of hospital stay