Immunotherapy is now a standard treatment for some cancers such as melanoma and lung cancer. Early studies indicate it is also a useful treatment for mesothelioma.
Before it can become a standard treatment further evidence from clinical trials is necessary. There are various clinical trials open in the UK that include immunotherapy and results are awaited from some trials that have closed.
What is it?
Immunotherapy is a form of treatment that helps the immune system to fight disease including cancer. The immune system is made up of white blood cells, tissues and organs (glands also known as the lymphatic system). Cancer cells have various properties that allow them to hide from the immune system.
What does it do?
Immunotherapy treatments work in different ways. Some “mark” the cancer cells making it possible for the immune system to find and destroy them. Other forms of immunotherapy work to strengthen the immune system to work more effectively against cancer.
The benefits of immunotherapy Include:
- Using the natural processes of the immune system to fight cancer
- A targeted approach that only targets cancer cells in comparison to chemotherapy which damages both healthy and cancerous cells
How is it given?
Immunotherapy for mesothelioma is given into a vein (intravenously). How often and how long you receive immunotherapy depends upon:
- The immunotherapy drug you are given
- How your body reacts to the treatment
- Whether the immunotherapy is working effectively
What are the side-effects?
As with any treatment, some people will experience side-effects. These can include flu like symptoms such as weakness, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, muscle and joint pain, fatigue, headache, breathlessness and blood pressure problem. The clinical team will monitor for these and more severe side effects.
How do I access it?
Following an assessment of the combined use of immunotherapy drugs nivolumab and ipilimumab, the SMC has accepted the treatment for use by NHS Scotland as a first-line treatment for patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma that cannot be removed by surgery.
NICE has yet to make a decision and is expected to do so early 2022. For more information about how NICE makes its decisions and how they apply to England, Wales and Northern Ireland see this information produced by Cancer Research UK
You may be able to access immunotherapy via clinical trials, ask your healthcare team for more information or check our clinical trials app. More information about clinical trials as well as our app can be found here.
More information on immunotherapy is available in our downloadable resources section.
If you would like to speak to a mesothelioma clinical nurse specialist about any of the information on this page please call our Freephone Support Line on 0800 169 2409 or email email@example.com.
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