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The difference between immunotherapy and chemotherapy to treat cancer


 Stem cell therapy and chemotherapy are two common types of cancer treatments. But they rely on the use of drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells. Although they have the same goal, the way they work in the body is different. We can summarize the difference as follows:

  • Immunotherapy enhances your immune system's ability to target cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy works directly on cancer cells to stop them from multiplying.
  • Let's learn the similarities and differences between immunotherapy and chemotherapy. 

What is immunotherapy?

Cancer cells are abnormal cells that multiply without the body's control over them. Normally, your immune system destroys abnormal cells, but many types of cancer cells can hide from your immune system.

Cancer cells may be able to hide from the immune system by:

  • The presence of genetic changes that reduce its appearance.
  • They contain proteins that stop the work of immune cells.
  • Alter the cells around the tumor so that they interfere with the immune response.

How immunotherapy works

Immunotherapy helps the immune system recognize and destroy cancer cells. The goal of immunotherapy is to create a pool of T cells that specifically target cancer. T cells are a special type of white blood cell that attacks cells that are foreign to the body or pathogens.

How are immunotherapy drugs given?

You can take immunotherapy drugs intravenously, capsules, or creams. Immunotherapy is used to treat a wide range of cancers but is not as widely used as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery.

Types of immunotherapy drugs

Immunotherapy drugs can be divided into several categories depending on how specifically they target the immune system, including:

  • Immune checkpoint inhibitors: These medications block immune checkpoints. Immune checkpoints are part of your normal immune response that prevents your immune system from being too aggressive.
  • T-cell transfer therapy: This type of therapy enhances the ability of T cells to recognize and attack cancer cells.
  • Monocytes: Monocytes are proteins that attach to cancer cells and mark them for your immune system.
  • Therapeutic vaccines: Therapeutic vaccines help boost your immune system's response to cancer cells.
  • Immune system modifiers: Immune system modulators generally work to boost your immune system or improve a specific part of your immune system.

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is a chemical drug treatment that helps prevent cancer cells from multiplying. Chemotherapy helps prevent cancer cells from multiplying by:

  • Reducing the number of cancer cells in the body.
  • Reducing the chances of cancer spreading or returning.
  • Shrinking tumors.
  • Reduce symptoms.

How is chemotherapy given?

Chemotherapy drugs can be given in several ways, such as:

  • the mouth.
  • By injection.
  • In the fluid between the brain and spinal cord.
  • directly into the artery.
  • directly into the abdominal cavity.
  • topically.

Chemotherapy is used to target a wide range of cancers. But the chemicals in chemotherapy drugs can also damage healthy cells, leading to common side effects like hair loss and nausea.

Types of chemotherapy drugs

There are at least 150 chemotherapy drugs that can be used to treat cancer. The type of medication your doctor recommends depends on several factors such as:

  • Your age and health.
  • The type of cancer you have.
  • stage of cancer.
  • Have you had previous chemotherapy or not.

What are the similarities and differences between the two treatments?

Chemotherapy and immunotherapy have similar goals, they work to destroy cancer cells and can be used to treat many different types of cancer.

But although they have a similar goal, the way these treatments destroy cancer cells is different. Immunotherapy seeks to boost the immune system's ability to kill cancer cells. While chemotherapy drugs directly impair the ability of cancer cells to multiply.

working length

Chemotherapy stops working as soon as you stop taking the medications. While immunotherapy stimulates the immune system to continue fighting cancer even after treatment has stopped.

When treatment is first started, chemotherapy can have an almost immediate effect on shrinking a tumor. However, immunotherapy often takes longer to take effect.

side effects

Both types of treatment can cause mild and serious side effects.

Chemotherapy targets rapidly dividing cells, such as cancer cells, but it can also damage other cells in the body that divide rapidly, such as hair, skin, blood, and gut cells. Which may cause many harmful side effects, such as:

  • nausea;
  • hair loss;
  • mouth ulcers;
  • Tired.

Many of the side effects of immunotherapy come from an overactive immune system. Mild side effects can include nausea, flu-like symptoms, or a reaction at the injection site. In more serious cases, it can cause the immune system to attack the body's organs.

Chemotherapy and immunotherapy are two types of drug treatments used to treat cancer. The goal of immunotherapy is to enhance the function of the immune system so that it can destroy cancer cells. While chemotherapy directly blocks the ability of cancer cells to replicate themselves.

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