The Difference between Immuno-Oncology and Immunotherapy

A healthy immune system protects against disease-causing viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. Research and medical evidence strongly suggest that the immune system also plays a vital role in eliminating precancerous and cancerous cells from the body. Immuno-Oncology (IO) is a new discipline that studies the immune system towards cancer. Its goal has always been to develop a new and effective form of therapy called Immunotherapy. Unlike chemotherapy or radiotherapy which targets the cancer, immunotherapy focuses on rejuvenating the immune system to destroy the cancer. Genetic, cellular, or molecular changes in the body can cause cancer cells to grow, mutate, form tumors, and also avoid detection by hiding from the immune system so they cannot be attacked. Immunotherapy activates the body’s immune system to fight cancer. It gives the immune system the ability to see and attack cancer cells, offering a less invasive treatment option than traditional therapy. Immunotherapy is specific, adaptive and functional regardless of tissue type. Another advantage of immunotherapy is that utilizing the immune system allows the body to kill metastatic disease, therefore, lowering the chances of relapse. Despite these advances, obstacles still exist for the field of cancer immunotherapy. For example, precision biomarkers are needed to predict which patients will benefit more from immunotherapy. In some cases, the immune system becomes too strong and could cause autoimmune diseases. Additionally, some cancers don’t respond well to immunotherapy, which might lead to a change in treatment options. Immunotherapy may hold the key to curing cancer by treating the immune system rather than the disease. However, there are still questions left to be answered in the field of immunotherapy.

Is Immunotherapy Right for Me?

When people receive a cancer diagnosis, the news can often come as a shock. The burden of finding the right treatment plan can be overwhelming. In fact, without the right information, patients might not understand how revolutionary options like immunotherapy are transforming oncology. IO, which studies the immune system to treat cancer, is rapidly spreading across the globe. But how do you know if immunotherapy is right for you and your cancer?

Talk to Your Doctor

If you’re considering immuno-oncology, it’s important that you discuss treatment with your doctor. Here are some important questions you should ask:

  1. What is the treatment regimen? Ask your doctor if immunotherapy is the right option for you. Sometimes patients will require a combination of different therapies. Ask what the role of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy will play in your course of treatment.

  2. What are some possible side effects? Depending on the type of cancer, immunotherapy can have different side effects. Some of the most common are skin reactions and flu-like symptoms. But it could also cause colitis or even lung problems with shortness of breath. Make your provider aware of any changes you might experience while undergoing treatment and work together to establish a plan to manage symptoms.

  3. What’s your opinion? Never be afraid to get a second opinion. Because doctors might have different perspectives on immunotherapy and its efficacy on certain cancers. It’s important that you seek out additional information about your particular case. The more information you have, the better you will be able to work with your healthcare team to create the best plan of action for you.

  4. What about clinical trials? Patients who are interested in immunotherapy can also consider entering into clinical trials that show early promise in treatment of their disease. While these should always be discussed with your doctor, determining all available treatment options will provide a comprehensive range of alternatives.

There is no such thing as a routine cancer; every person’s disease is biologically unique, driven by different genes and molecules. The experts at the OSUCCC – James believe the best way to treat patients and manage their disease successfully is to design and deliver the latest, most effective, personalized treatments available. With immunotherapy, these experts can manipulate a patient’s immune system, expanding and unleashing it to fight back against cancer. Through innovative therapies such as CAR-T cell therapy, immunotherapies are sometimes serving as a first-line therapy—often offering an effective, less harsh treatment plan than chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and would like a second opinion, or would like to speak with a cancer specialist about immunotherapy options, please call The James Line at 800-293-5066 or 614-293-5066 to make an appointment.

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