Immunotherapy vs. Chemotherapy- All You Need to Know

Recently, immunotherapy has become an increasingly available and vital cancer treatment option. Many patients that are just learning about immunotherapy want to know how immunotherapy compares to chemotherapy, potential side-effects, costs involved, and more.

We’ve created a quick guide to answer some of these questions.

What Is Immunotherapy?

Cancer immunotherapy empowers your own immune system, helping it fight cancer. It works to harness and enhance your natural immune system to work against the disease, by helping it recognize, target, and then eliminate cancer cells from the body.

Immunotherapy can be given in combination with a number of other types of cancer treatments and has already proven to be an effective treatment for those suffering from various types of cancers, making it a most promising new cancer treatment approach.

What Is Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is a treatment with medication that kills cancer cells directly. It attacks all the rapidly-dividing cells in your body and targets the fast-growing tumors effectively. This treatment can be used alone or in combination with a variety of other treatments such as surgery, radiation, or immunotherapy.

Immunotherapy vs. Chemotherapy: Side Effects

To destroy cancerous tumors, chemotherapy attacks rapidly dividing cells within the body, which can include both cancerous and non-cancerous cells, including your hair follicles and the lining of your gut. These rapid attacks on healthy cells cause some of chemotherapy’s more infamous side effects, like hair loss and nausea. Immunotherapy, in contrast, has potential side effects that usually result from overstimulated or misdirected immune responses, ranging from mild to moderate or severe.

The Effectiveness of Each Treatment

Though chemotherapy’s effects only last as long as the drugs stay in the body, a super exciting and groundbreaking aspect of immunotherapy is that it can actually provide long-term protection against cancer, because of the immune system’s ability to recognize what cancer cells look like. This ‘memory’ is what makes long-lasting remissions possible. Some studies have shown that responses to immunotherapy treatment can be long-lasting and maintained even after treatment finishes. Some additional evidence has revealed that some types and doses of chemotherapy can also enhance immune responses against tumors, further providing another rationale for combining these treatments in a few situations.