Skin Cancer Immunotherapy
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Immunotherapy for Skin Cancer
At Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), your doctors may use immunotherapy alone, or in conjunction with treatments such as surgery and chemotherapy.
Harnessing the Immune System to Fight Skin Cancer
Certain cancers, such as melanoma, may be very sensitive to immune-based treatments. Immunotherapy, also referred to as biological therapy, biotherapy or biological response modifier therapy, either directly or indirectly uses your immune system to help fight skin cancer, or to reduce side effects that may be caused by some cancer treatments.
Types of Immunotherapy for Skin Cancer
The cancer immunotherapy options available at CTCA include:
- Interferons: Your body naturally produces interferons in response to infection and disease. Interferon immunotherapy is used to non-specifically stimulate your immune system to fight foreign invaders, as well as diseased or cancerous cells. Interferon-alpha is most often used for the treatment of melanoma. It may be used alone, or in combination with chemotherapy for treating metastatic disease. It may also be used for patients with earlier stages of disease following surgery, to reduce the chance of the cancer returning.
- Interleukin-2: Interleukins are another type of substance produced naturally by the immune system which may be used to treat melanoma. Interleukins are involved in activating your white blood cells (also known as lymphocytes) to fight infections or cancerous cells. Interleukin-2 (IL-2) has been found to be effective in some people with melanoma either administered alone, or in combination with your own lymphocytes that have been treated with IL-2 outside your body.
- Yervoy™: Yervoy (ipilimumab) is a new form of skin cancer immunotherapy that was recently approved by the FDA for the treatment of metastatic melanoma. Yervoy is a monoclonal antibody that targets CTLA-4, a protein that helps to regulate the immune system by suppressing the activity of T cells. By blocking the action of CTLA-4, Yervoy acts to take the brakes off the immune system, allowing it to fight the cancer cells. This drug is used to treat melanoma that has metastasized or that cannot be treated by surgery. In a clinical trial, Yervoy helped some patients with metastatic melanoma to live longer.
Cancer immunotherapy can be associated with potentially serious side effects, so if your CTCA care team believes you may be a candidate for one of these agents, they will thoroughly discuss the potential side effects and benefits of therapy, answer all of your questions and help you to make an informed decision.
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