Compared to many common infections or diseases, cancer is an extremely complex disease. To increase the chances of cure or long-term remission, oncologists often combine treatments. Sometimes one type of treatment can help another to work better or two drugs become more powerful.
In the case of immunotherapies (treatments that use your body’s immune system against cancer), combination therapies are a common approach because many therapies are new. The combination or addition of a new immunotherapy to a cycle of radiotherapy, hormone therapy or chemotherapy has worked with more than one type of cancer.
Immunotherapy of mating
Doctors can combine two immunotherapies that work differently and have been effective. Some of these treatments speed up the immune system by blocking the brakes that cancer has placed on immune cells. Others teach to detect tumor cells as invaders, among other methods. The researchers believe that the combination of immunotherapy drugs acting on many fronts can make your immune system even more powerful.
The FDA has already approved nivolumab (Opdivo) and ipilimumab (Yervoy) immunotherapies for use in combination with certain types of metastatic melanoma, advanced colorectal cancer and advanced renal cell carcinoma. Other therapeutic combinations are approved for certain cancers. The drugs work better together than the two alone. Studies are in progress on other combined immunotherapies.
Immunotherapy With Radiation
Physicians have good reason to be enthusiastic about the combination of immunotherapy drugs and radiation that reduces tumors and destroys cancer cells:
Radiation affects certain immune cells. Immunotherapy can reverse this damage.
Studies show that radiation can make cancer cells vulnerable to attacks by the immune system.
The combination of radiotherapy and immunotherapy drugs in breast cancer, lung cancer, renal cell carcinoma, prostate cancer, melanoma, uterine cancer and sarcoma has been studied.
Immunotherapy Plus Chemotherapy
Researchers believe that, like radiation therapy, chemotherapy can make some tumors more likely to respond to immunotherapy.
Chemotherapy is associated with two types of immune cell gene therapy: CART-T cell therapy and TCR therapy. CAR-T cell therapy has been approved to treat two types of blood cancer, while TCR therapy is still in the research stage.
Both treatments involve the “reprogramming” of immune cells called T cells to better fight against cancer. Doctors often recommend chemotherapy before the modified T cells enter the bloodstream to reduce the amount of other immune cells in your body. This facilitates the search and destruction of cancer cells by T cells.
Immunotherapy drugs, such as nivolumab, are also combined with different chemotherapies to improve the effectiveness of treatment. Nivolumab is a targeted therapy that is used to treat certain types of melanoma and Hodgkin lymphoma, as well as cancers of the lung, kidney, bladder, head and neck, colorectal and liver. It is designed to increase the attack of T cells on cancer cells.
Immunotherapy and targeted therapies
In addition to traditional cancer treatments (radiotherapy, surgery and chemotherapy), scientists have developed targeted therapies for various types of tumors. Instead of killing all the cells that, like the cancer cells, divide rapidly, these drugs are concentrated in the tumor cells with certain changes or molecules. Since many targeted treatments can alter how a tumor interacts with its immune system, weakening cancer, researchers are now investigating whether adding immunotherapy to targeted drugs can make them even more potent.
It depends on the type of cancer you have and the medications recommended by your doctor. Because you will receive several treatments, some of which may be administered intravenously or require hospitalization, you may need to make additional appointments.
Some combinations may require you to take two medications at the same time. Or you may need to take two medications one after the other if one of them is used for