Receive Immunotherapy in Northcentral PA
Immunotherapy — sometimes called biotherapy (biological therapy) — works with the immune system to treat cancer. The immune system is the body’s defense mechanism. When it detects a threat, it reacts, which is called the immune response. A strong immune system works to seek and destroy damaged and abnormal cells.
Sometimes, the immune system isn’t strong enough on its own. Immunotherapy enhances the actions of the immune system to fight cancer cells.
To learn more about immunotherapy in Williamsport or Wellsboro, PA, Find a Provider at UPMC.
How Does Immunotherapy Work?
The immune system consists of organs and cells throughout the body, such as:
- The spleen
- Lymph nodes
- The lymphatic vessels and fluids
- Certain cells in the liver and bone marrow
- White blood cells
Immunotherapy can use concentrated amounts of the body's natural substances — called biologic agents — to push the immune system to work even harder, stimulating the immune response.
If the immune cells aren't strong enough to fight cancer cells on their own, biologic agents can give the system a boost by changing the chemical environment around the cancer. Your care team may also collect white blood cells from your body, alter them in a lab to make them stronger, and then return them to your body.
What to Expect During Immunotherapy Treatment
Over the course of your immunotherapy treatment at UPMC, you may receive a single biologic agent or a combination of two or more agents at once.
Based on your type and stage of cancer, we may also combine immunotherapy with other treatments, such as:
Your care team will work together to decide the ideal treatment approach to meet your personal goals and needs.
What Are Biologic Agents?
Biologic agents boost your immune system to fight cancer cells.
These agents include:
- Colony stimulating factors (CSF)
- Interferon (IFN)
- Monoclonal antibodies (MoAb)
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved some biologic agents. Other agents are available only to patients enrolled in clinical research studies, which measure the effects of new cancer treatments.
Your doctor and nurse can explain the benefits of your treatment if you decide to take part in a clinical trial.
How Will I Receive Immunotherapy?
You will receive immunotherapy through a shot. Depending on the immunotherapy you receive, you may need diagnostic tests. And, you may need to spend several hours in the treatment area.
At times, you might need to stay in the hospital for all or part of your treatment.
Short and Long-Term Side Effects of Immunotherapy
Side effects of immunotherapy are unique to each person and treatment.
For some people, immunotherapy side effects last for a short time. For others, they last through the end of treatment and beyond.
Your oncologist will discuss the side effects of immunotherapy with you in detail.
Managing Immunotherapy Side Effects
Your doctor might give you medicine to prevent or decrease some of your side effects. In some cases, your doctor may change or stop your immunotherapy treatment.
Some ways to ease your symptoms and manage side effects of immunotherapy include:
- Maintaining a healthy diet.
- Getting enough rest.
- Reducing alcohol use.
- Quitting smoking.
- Getting enough exercise.
Making sure you have social and emotional support can also help you during cancer treatment.
Your cancer care team will keep a close watch your health during immunotherapy. They'll work with you to reduce any side effects and suggest other ways to maintain your overall wellbeing.
UPMC Hillman Cancer Centers offer excellence in the most advanced types of immunotherapy in Williamsport and Wellsboro, PA.