Immunotherapy, also called biological therapy and biotherapy, uses the body's immune system to fight cancer. Compared with other forms of cancer treatment, such as surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy, immunotherapy is still fairly new. It is an exciting area of cancer research and treatment.
Why choose the UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center for immunotherapy?
Our cancer center is the only cancer center recognized by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Central and South Texas. Patients come to the cancer center from throughout South Texas and beyond for our:
- Advanced treatments: The latest cancer therapies and immune-based treatments, including clinical trials for new immunotherapy drugs and vaccines
- Team approach to care: A collaborative team of specialists, including medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgical oncologists and pathologists (doctors who look at your tissue under a microscope to determine whether or not it contains cancer)
- Support: A large network of patient assistance programs, support groups, and support services
How does immunotherapy work?
Immunotherapy includes treatments that work in different ways:
- Active immunotherapies stimulate your body’s own immune system to fight the disease.
- Passive immunotherapies use antibodies created outside your body that train your immune system to attack cancer cells.
Immunotherapy drugs are most commonly given intravenously (IV).
Your team of doctors at the CTRC will monitor your progress closely and may pair immunotherapy with other treatments.
Advanced immunotherapy at the Cancer Center
Our doctors and researchers are excited to be a part of the latest immune-based research, clinical trials and therapies. We offer patients some of the most recent and highly advanced immunotherapies available, including:
PD-1 and PD-L1 Inhibitors
PDL1 inhibitors are:
- Drugs that boost the immune response against cancer cells
- The newest type of immunotherapy drugs available, which means that some of these drugs may be part of a clinical trial at our cancer center
- Currently being used to fight many different cancer types
- Often given if other forms of treatment, such as chemotherapy, radiation or surgery have failed to eliminate your cancer
- Given to you through intravenous (IV) infusion every two or three weeks
Provenge® for Advanced Stage Prostate Cancer
This new immune-based therapy for prostate cancer is a cancer vaccine that takes your own immune cells and reprograms them to attack your cancer. This is the only vaccine approved so far by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat cancer.
Provenge® requires a sample of your tumor tissue, which your doctor will remove during a biopsy or surgical procedure.
Other immunotherapy drugs
There are many other immunotherapy drugs currently available, all of which are offered at UT Health San Antonio, including:
- Passive immunotherapies (also called monoclonal antibody therapies), such as rituximab (Rituxan®) and alemtuzumab (Campath®)
- Adjuvants (substances or cells that boost your immune response), such as BCG, interleukin-2 (IL-2) and interferon-alfa
- Immunomodulating drugs that help direct your immune system, such as thalidomide and lenalidomide (Revlimid®)
What are the side effects of immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy generally results in fewer and less severe side effects than other forms of cancer treatment. Side effects you may experience include:
- Mouth sores
- High blood pressure
- Fluid buildup, usually in the legs
The side effects of immunotherapy generally become less severe after the first treatment.
Throughout your treatment, your care team can provide you with therapies to help reduce side effects, such as nutrition therapy and pain management.
Make an appointment
To request an appointment or to make a referral to one of our physicians, please call 210-450-1000.
For information about cancer treatment at the UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center or cancer trials, please call 1-800-340-2872.