Immunotherapy has the potential to achieve durable clinical responses in some patients. In addition, an improved quality of life may also make Immunotherapy an attractive choice for people who have this treatment option. Immunotherapy may be an option for patients to consider because the side effects, although prevalent, may be easier on patients compared to typical chemotherapy-related toxicities, and with appropriate attention, can be simple to manage. The side effect profile differs from other types of cancer therapeutics. Some side effects occur as a result of an overactive immune system, not the destruction of healthy cells, as often occurs with cytototoxic Chemotherapy. Because not as many healthy cells are damaged with immunotherapy, some patients have reported a different range of side effects.
One limitation to Immunotherapy is that it can be very effective in some patients but not in others. Researchers continue to explore why this happens to determine how to improve existing therapies and to develop new ones through clinical trials. Researchers are interested in identifying biomarkers that may be able to better predict which patients are likely to respond to which Immunotherapy agents or combinations.
Several Immunotherapy agents or regimens are currently approved by the FDA for the treatment of melanoma. Other novel treatments that are not yet FDA-approved may be accessible through clinical trials. Discuss the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial with your patients if they have not responded to other therapies or if you feel this may be the best treatment option for them. Provide them with multiple resources, and encourage them to become advocates for their own health by learning about and researching available clinical trials.