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Immunotherapy Treatment

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Immunotherapy Treatment in Staten Island, NY

Immunotherapy can be an effective method of treatment for a variety of cancers. However, there are many different types of immunotherapy treatments that patients can undergo. By looking at the type of cancer a patient has, physicians can determine the best method of immunotherapy for each patient. Richmond University Medical Center uses the most advanced technology and medical practices available to treat those in Staten Island with cancerous conditions. Learn more about immunotherapy and oncology at Richmond University Medical Center’s Center for Cancer Care.

Doctor giving patient IV treatment in hospital

What Is Immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy, also known as biological therapy, is a method of treatment for many types of cancers. It is designed to use the patient’s own immune system to kill off cancer cells. Immunotherapy works by taking substances from the body or substances made in a laboratory to help improve immune system function. In turn, this can assist the body in fighting off cancerous cells. This can be a beneficial option when traditional cancer treatment methods fail to work.

How Does It Work?

The immune system is responsible for fighting off diseases and illnesses. It uses proteins, cells, and organs to defend against toxins and sicknesses. But when a patient develops cancer, this can weaken the immune system and make it harder for the body to protect against cancerous cells. Because the immune system has a more difficult time fighting off cancer cells, this can allow them to multiply and grow.

Immunotherapy works by enhancing the immune system’s response. It uses the body’s natural substances and alters them to target cancerous cells, killing them off. Not only does immunotherapy train the immune system to recognize and eliminate cancer cells, but it also helps the body make cells that can fight against cancerous ones.

Different Types of Immunotherapy

There are many different kinds of immunotherapy treatment a patient can undergo. This can include:

Cancer Vaccines

Similar to regular vaccinations, cancer vaccines are designed to assist the body in fighting off diseases, like cancer. It introduces antigens to the immune system. Cancer vaccines can cause the immune system to activate, recognize, and eliminate antigens or similar substances. Some examples of a cancer vaccine include Gardasil for human papillomavirus (HPV) prevention and Provenge for prostate cancer treatment.

Monoclonal Antibodies and Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors

To fight against harmful viruses, the body produces antibodies. Antibodies are responsible for attacking infections by attaching to antigens. These antigens alert the body to achieve an immune response. For monoclonal antibody treatment, these antibodies are created in a laboratory. In turn, this can boost the immune system response so the body can attack cancerous cells. This is a type of targeted therapy.

The body also has immune checkpoints, which are what alert the body to slow down immune responses to protect healthy cells. Cancerous cells can trigger these immune checkpoints, which makes it easy for them to grow and multiply. Using immune checkpoint inhibitors for treatment keeps cancer cells from affecting immune system function.

T-Cell Therapy

T-cells are natural cells found in the body. They are in charge of fighting off infections. Before conducting T-cell immunotherapy, physicians first take a sample of blood and remove the T-cells. In a laboratory, they can add receptors to the T-cells that are specifically designed to target cancer cells. The altered T-cells are then injected back into the body where they can locate and eliminate cancerous cells.

Non-Specific Immunotherapies

Non-specific immunotherapies are also called non-specific immunomodulating agents. They are designed to assist the immune system in eliminating cancer cells. Physicians can use two types of immunotherapy treatment to stop or slow the spreading of cancer, including cytokines and Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG).

Oncolytic Virus Therapy

Oncolytic virus therapy can also be called virus therapy. This is a process that involves using natural viruses and changing their makeup in a laboratory. Once the virus has been altered, it is injected into the tumor. This makes it easier for the body to destroy cancer cells. Once the virus enters cancer cells, it copies itself, which forces cancerous cells to die off. As they die, they trigger an immune response to fight off the remaining cancer cells in the body. This works to keep healthy cells safe.

The type of treatment a patient receives can depend on many factors, such as the spread, size, location, and cancer type a patient has. It can also vary by looking at the patient’s overall health and family medical history.

What Happens During an Immunotherapy Treatment?

When undergoing immunotherapy cancer treatment, patients meet their physician at their regular treatment center. Immunotherapy can be administered in one of three ways:

  • Intravesical: This is when immunotherapy is placed into the bladder.
  • Intravenous (IV): This is when immunotherapy is given through a vein.
  • Topical: This is a version of immunotherapy that comes in a cream so patients can rub it onto their skin.
  • Oral: This is an immunotherapy treatment that comes in the form of capsules or pills.

The type of immunotherapy a patient receives, the cancer they have, and how advanced the cancer is can affect how often they must go in for treatment. Treatments can range anywhere from every day to every week to every month. For those with a cyclic immunotherapy treatment plan, treatments are followed up with a period of rehabilitation. This gives the body the time it needs to create an immune response and generate healthy cells.

After treatment, physicians will conduct regular physical exams to monitor side effects and how the treatment is working. They may also do additional blood tests and scans, such as computed tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Cancers Treated with Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy can be an effective treatment for many types of cancer, including:

Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer is any cancer that is present in the bladder. Treatment is given directly into the bladder to fight off cancerous cells. Immunotherapy treatments for this kind of cancer include checkpoint inhibitors, monoclonal antibodies, and BCG.

Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer includes cancerous cells found in the cervix, the bottom portion of a patient’s uterus. Using checkpoint inhibitors, treatments are administered through an IV infusion. They can be completed every three or six weeks.

Kidney Cancer

This is a type of cancer that grows in the kidneys. Although treatment can work on its own using checkpoint inhibitors, it is commonly prescribed alongside targeted therapy. Immunotherapy is an option for when kidney tumors are removed through surgery, but there are chances that the tumor can return. It is also used to eliminate remaining cancer cells after a tumor has been removed. Immunotherapy can be given through an IV infusion every two, three, or four weeks, or it can be given every three or six weeks.

Breast Cancer

This includes any kind of cancer that grows in the breast. The first sign of breast cancer is typically an unusual bump felt inside the breast. Immunotherapy treatment for breast cancer uses T-cell immunotherapy and monoclonal antibodies, while checkpoint inhibitors are used to treat triple-negative breast cancer. Treatment is given intravenously every three or six weeks.

Brain Cancer

Brain cancer includes any cancer that grows in the brain and brain systems. There are many different types of brain cancer with which a patient may be diagnosed. Immunotherapy, such as T-cell immunotherapy, can be an effective treatment option for some types of brain cancer.

Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is any tumor that is found in the prostate gland, a part of the body responsible for regulating sperm. Treatment involves using cancer vaccines for advanced stages of prostate cancer. To create the vaccine, white blood cells are extracted from the patient. These cells are then altered in a laboratory to recognize prostate cancer cells. The cells are placed back into the body, which gives the immune system the knowledge needed to fight against cancer cells.

Immunotherapy and Other Cancer Treatments

While immunotherapy can work on its own, physicians may use it alongside other treatment methods for cancer, including:


Surgery is a method of cancer treatment used to remove all or part of a tumor. Patients can have minimally invasive surgery using a small tool or may require more extensive surgical measures. Looking at the type, size, and location of a tumor can determine the right surgical method. If surgery cannot work to remove the entirety of the tumor, patients may undergo additional treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.


Chemotherapy uses certain drugs and medications to kill off cancer cells. The medications are administered through an IV. It can work to treat a wide variety of cancers and can be used alone or alongside other treatments.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high doses of radiation to kill off cancerous cells and shrink tumors. The radiation can come from X-ray technology, which produces high-energy beams. This type of treatment can be successful in treating many cancers.

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy uses medications to specifically target the genetic makeup of certain cancer cells. It is similar to immunotherapy in that the body learns how to fight off cancerous cells through this type of treatment. It can work to directly attack and eliminate cancer cells.

Side Effects of Immunotherapy

Those who undergo immunotherapy treatment may experience a variety of symptoms. For starters, patients can have symptoms at the site in which the needle was inserted, such as:

  • Rashes
  • Pain
  • Itchiness
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Soreness

Patients may also experience symptoms similar to having the flu, including:

  • Low or high blood pressure
  • Fever
  • Trouble breathing
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Aching joints or muscles
  • Vomiting or nausea

Patients can also have additional side effects, such as:

  • Organ inflammation
  • Swelling and weight gain
  • Infection
  • Heart palpitations
  • Diarrhea
  • Sinus congestion

Symptoms can vary from patient to patient depending on the type of cancer a patient has and which immunotherapy treatment is used.

Start Immunotherapy Treatments Today

Richmond University Medical Center prides itself on offering comprehensive, tailored patient care to those in Staten Island. Physicians have the resources necessary to serve as reliable sources of medical care and information. To learn more about immunotherapy treatment, contact us today.