Immunotherapy is a type of biological therapy that uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer cells. It can use natural substances in the body or man-made substances that behave like the body’s natural ones. Targeted therapies are drugs that prohibit the progression of cancer by targeting the genes and proteins necessary for a tumor to grow. While these two classifications of cancer treatment seem unassociated with one another, some targeted therapies work within the immune system.
At Dignity Health, we are dedicated to providing specialized, world-class cancer care that puts your needs first. Our Dignity Health – Cancer Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center is the only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center headquartered in Arizona. If you’re interested in immunotherapy or targeted therapy in Arizona, Find a Doctor near you today or call (602) 406-8222.
Why Immunotherapy & Targeted Therapy is Used
Genomic testing will most likely need to be performed before your oncologist will use targeted therapy, as a gene mutation or other molecular target must be identified for this type of therapy to work. Targeted therapies are often an option for certain breast, colon, and lung cancers and melanomas that have the BRAF gene mutation.
Two main types of targeted therapies are monoclonal antibodies and small-molecule drugs. Monoclonal antibodies target specific molecules on the surface of the cancer cell to destroy them. Some monoclonal antibodies kill the targeted cancer cell by releasing a toxin into them. Other monoclonal antibodies use the immune system by targeting cells to help them fight the cancer cells. Small-molecule drugs stop cancer from growing by inhibiting the method of growth for the specific cancer type.
Immunotherapy boosts your body’s natural ability to fight cancer through the power of the immune system. There are many types of immunotherapies, including:
- Cancer vaccines that boost the immune system to help fight or prevent cancer, such as the vaccine to guard against human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer.
- Adoptive cell transfer, or T-cell therapy, helps T-cells kill the cancer cells in the tumor.
- Cytokines, either interferons or interleukins, are substances that help immune cells better fight cancer.
- Monoclonal antibodies — this immunotherapy is also a type of targeted therapy. It works by marking cancer cells as harmful so the body’s immune system kills them.
Each of these therapies have been approved to fight specific cancer types. Talk to your oncologist to see if immunotherapy or targeted therapy could help fight yours.
Immunotherapy & Targeted Therapy: What to Expect at Dignity Health
Depending on the therapy type, these treatments can be administered at home, in your doctor's office, at an independent clinic, or at our state-of-the-art Cancer Care Center. The length and form of treatment also varies. Some are a medicine given in pill form, like small-molecule drugs, and some, like monoclonal antibodies, are typically administered through an IV. If targeted or immunotherapy are not available to treat your stage and type of cancer, be sure to ask your oncologist about clinical trials.
Dignity Health offers specialized cancer care, including immunotherapy and targeted therapy, in Arizona.