Immunotherapy: How Far Has India Progressed in Making the Treatment Available?

Immunotherapy: How Far Has India Progressed in Making the Treatment Available?
Immunotherapy: How Far Has India Progressed in Making the Treatment Available?

To be diagnosed with cancer is a scary thing. A lot of people have lost family, relatives or friends to this disease. However, an increasing number of people do survive this deadly disease due to more accurate and earlier diagnoses and more effective treatments. Targeted therapy, surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy are primary medical therapies used to treat cancer. 

A new and advanced class of cancer treatment, immunotherapy has proved its mettle by showing tremendous results.

Understanding Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is a type of treatment for cancer that works towards boosting the natural defenses of the human body to fight cancer. It uses substances made in a laboratory or by the body to improve how the immune system works to find and destroy cancer cells.

This is a new kind of treatment that’s based on the immune system of the body and is also known as Biotherapy or Biological therapy. If we talk about immunotherapy for cancer in India, it is done in the below-listed ways:

  • Restricting cancer from spreading into other body areas
  • Halting cancer growth in the body
  • Improving and strengthening the immune system  

What Makes Immunotherapy Promising?

Because it gives hope, something a patient needs for successful & positive recovery. Another aspect that makes it promising is its ability to strengthen immunity by mechanisms. Few more aspects like antibodies or checkpoint inhibitors or taking out the body cells and re-engineering to fight cancer.

Various Types of Immunotherapy 

There are many types of immunotherapy. They include:

  • Non-specific immunotherapies
  • Monoclonal antibodies and tumor-agnostic
  • Oncolytic virus therapy
  • Cancer vaccines
  • T-cell therapy

Based on the patient’s needs, one or two or more of these immunotherapies are suggested. 

When is Immunotherapy Prescribed?

Cancer was treated using chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation therapy. However, these have limitations. For instance, surgery is impossible in inoperable tumours. Then there are cases, wherein an operation is possible. However, cancer has already reached other areas of the body, so local treatment is not suitable. Radiation therapy has the same consequences. As far as chemotherapy is there, it kills the cells but chances of cells developing resistance remain. 

Earlier, immunotherapy was given in the relapsed and advanced cancer. But it’s not the same anymore, and patients get it upfront.

How are Indian Doctors Making it Available? 

Being an expensive treatment, not everyone can afford immunotherapy. The reason behind the cost is the high dosage of drugs. Making immunotherapy for cancer in India affordable for maximum patients, doctors are trying to reduce the dosage and increase the interval to turn it into a cost-effective solution. By all means, healthcare experts are experimenting and thinking about what could be done. 

Types of Cancer Immunotherapy Treats

For breast cancer, a lot of efforts have been put in to make immunotherapy available. As per studies, breast cancer is immunogenic, and owing to its average cell analysis, the response can be predicted. Considering the previous immune strategies, they have shown benefits that signify immunotherapy can work for breast cancer. However, to plan the strategies, clinical trials are necessary. 

Other than this, a variety of immunotherapies are used to cure various stages of cancer. Major forms of cancer possible to be cured via this therapy are: 

  • Breast cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia
  • Stomach cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Large B-cell lymphomas
  • Prostate cancer
  • Brain cancer
  • Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Why is Immunotherapy in demand?

Immunotherapy has an undeniable potential to achieve durable clinical responses in many patients. Improved quality of life may also make immunotherapy a compelling choice for people who have this treatment option. It may be an attractive option for cancer patients to consider. Although prevalent, the side effects may be easier on patients than typical chemotherapy-related toxicities and can be simple to manage. However, researchers continue to explore how to improve existing therapies.

Process of Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is possible to be given: 

  • Intravenously, i.e., directly into a vein
  • Through injections, subcutaneously or Intramuscularly 
  • Topically, i.e., through ointments or creams
  • Into a specific body cavity for the treatment of a specific tumour site

How to Find Out if Immunotherapy is Working or not?

Talking about radiation therapy and chemotherapy, they cause a noticeable change in the size of the tumour. It can be easily measurable and checked via MRI/CT/Pet Scan, etc. Now if we talk about immunotherapy, measuring the response via these techniques is not possible. As the therapy encourages the patient’s immune system to fight against the tumour, immunotherapy takes time. 

On that note, even when the therapy is going on, a tumour may grow. Moreover, the rate of response depends on the type of immunotherapy being performed. Through the therapy process, the disease status of the patient is monitored regularly along with monitoring of side effects that may occur during the treatment journey. A measurable response from the immune system can take weeks. 

Ongoing Research in Immunotherapy

Looking at the current research in the therapy, it is looking to: 

1. Find the right blend of immune checkpoint inhibitors and types of immunotherapy to get over the body’s resistance to the therapy.  

2. Find how cells of cancer escape the immune system.

3. Find the best ways to decrease the terrific effects caused by the treatment of cancer.

4. Find out the best way to analyse after treatment results and knowing which patient will respond to which immunotherapy. 

Final Words

Immunotherapy for cancer in India is still an evolving process. Some of the best doctors have started attending conferences, training, and other important sessions to make it easily available for Indian patients. As the treatment differs from other cancer treatments, its plan of action differs as well.

Hopefully, most cancer patients will be able to benefit from it soon. Like other developed countries, patients in India will get better treatment, and the chances of beating this disease will grow.