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Immunotherapy is a biological treatment that can strengthen the body’s immune system to help it identify and destroy foreign invaders, such as infection-causing viruses, bacteria and toxins. Through extensive research, scientists have discovered that the body’s natural defense mechanisms can also recognize and target cancerous cells. However, the immune system’s ability to fight cancer on its own is limited for several reasons.

Cancer develops when healthy cells undergo abnormal changes. In some cases, the immune system cannot distinguish between cancerous cells and normal cells because they are not that different. In other cases, the immune system recognizes the cancerous cells but its response is not strong enough to destroy them. Finally, some cancerous cells have unique characteristics that allow them to evade detection by the immune system.

To overcome these challenges, scientists have developed immunotherapies to help the immune system identify cancerous cells and intensify its response to them.

Immunotherapy for cancer treatment

The following are some frequently asked questions about immunotherapy and its role in cancer treatment:

  • Where do you go for immunotherapy? You may receive immunotherapy for cancer treatment in a physician’s office, outpatient clinic, hospital or cancer center. Learn more here.
  • How can you tell if immunotherapy is working? Throughout your treatment, your physician will monitor your progress by performing periodic examinations and evaluating the results of lab tests and imaging scans. Find out more here.
  • How often do you receive immunotherapy? The frequency and duration of your treatment will depend on several factors, including your cancer type, cancer stage, immunotherapy type and response to treatment. Find out more here.
  • What are the side effects of immunotherapy? There are many side effects to be aware of before undergoing immunotherapy for cancer treatment. Find out more here.
  • How do you find clinical trials that are testing immunotherapy? Finding an immunotherapy clinical trial takes a few simple steps that include gathering all the pertinent details about your cancer diagnosis. Find out more here.
  • What are the best foods to eat during immunotherapy treatment? Studies show that proper nutrition plays a key role in the success of cancer immunotherapy. Find out more here
  • How do Keytruda® and Opdivo® work? Both Keytruda® and Opdivo® are monoclonal antibodies, which are manmade proteins that mimic the function of natural antibodies found in the immune system. Find out more here

At Moffitt Cancer Center, our patients have access to several FDA-approved immunotherapies as well as our immunotherapy clinical trials. With a goal to help more patients benefit from this promising treatment, Moffitt Cancer Center is leading important research initiatives to investigate new ways to enhance the body’s natural immune response to cancer.

check mark symbol Medically reviewed by Hany Elmariah, MD, MS, Blood and Marrow Transplant and Cellular Immunotherapy Program

If you have questions about immunotherapy that are not covered here, you are welcome to discuss them with a specialist in our Immunology Program. You can request an appointment by calling 1-888-663-3488 or completing our new patient registration form online.