Doctors may administer immunotherapy to treat recurrent ovarian cancer or ovarian cancer in its more advanced stages. Immunotherapy helps the body’s immune system to effectively identify and destroy cancer cells.

The immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to defend the body against harmful invaders such as viruses, bacteria, and cancer cells.

Immunotherapy boosts the body’s natural immune response to cancer, either by stimulating the immune system or by using man-made immune system proteins to target cancer cells.

This article discusses the use of immunotherapy for ovarian cancer, its side effects, and clinical trials.

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Doctors can use immunotherapy to treat ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that can often be resistant to traditional chemotherapy treatments, so researchers have been investigating new treatment options, including immunotherapy.

Immune checkpoint inhibitors

Immune checkpoint inhibitors are a type of immunotherapy. They block proteins called checkpoints, which are created by T cells and some cancer cells.

The National Cancer Institute notes that checkpoints can sometimes stop T cells from killing cancer cells. Blocking these checkpoints can help T cells to kill cancer cells more effectively.

Immune checkpoint inhibitors can treat recurrent or advanced ovarian cancer that has progressed after previous treatment with chemotherapy.

As with any cancer treatment, the use of immune checkpoint inhibitors is determined on a case-by-case basis by a healthcare professional.

The ACS states that doctors may administer the immune checkpoint inhibitor called pembrolizumab (Keytruda). It targets the proteins on T-cells called PD-1.

Doctors administer pembrolozumab intravenously every 3 weeks.

Immunotherapy has shown promise as a treatment option for ovarian cancer.

Several clinical trials investigating the use of immune checkpoint inhibitors for ovarian cancer have shown mixed but generally promising results.

For example, some studies have shown that immune checkpoint inhibitors can extend progression-free survival in some people, and some have experienced significant tumor shrinkage.

As with any cancer treatment, the effectiveness of immunotherapy can vary from person to person and is best discussed with a healthcare professional who can provide personalized treatment recommendations.

While immunotherapy can be an effective treatment option for some types of cancer, it can also cause side effects.

Some possible side effects of immunotherapy include:

  • fatigue
  • skin rash or itching
  • diarrhea or other gastrointestinal issues
  • nausea and vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • shortness of breath
  • coughing
  • headaches
  • muscle or joint pain
  • fever

In some cases, immunotherapy can cause more serious side effects, such as:

  • severe allergic reactions
  • lung problems
  • liver inflammation
  • intestinal issues
  • problems with hormone-making glands
  • kidney problems

It is important to note that not all people who receive immunotherapy will experience side effects, and some may experience mild side effects that go away on their own.

However, healthcare professionals should closely monitor people receiving immunotherapy to ensure that any side effects are promptly identified and treated.

Immunotherapy clinical trials evaluate the safety and effectiveness of new immunotherapy treatments for cancer. These studies typically involve people with advanced or metastatic cancer who have not responded to standard treatments or have relapsed after initial treatment.

In these trials, people are randomly assigned to receive the new immunotherapy treatment or standard treatment, or a placebo.

The study then evaluates the safety and effectiveness of the new treatment by monitoring the people over time for any changes in tumor size or other relevant clinical outcomes.

There are several different treatments for ovarian cancer, including:

  • Surgery: The primary treatment for ovarian cancer is usually surgery. The goal of surgery is to remove as much cancer as possible. Depending on the stage and extent of the cancer, the surgeon may remove one or both ovaries, the uterus, and other tissues or organs.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is the other main treatment for ovarian cancer and uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Doctors often administer chemotherapy intravenously, but they can also administer it directly into the abdominal cavity in a procedure called intraperitoneal chemotherapy.
  • Targeted therapy: Targeted therapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs to target specific proteins or other molecules that are involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells. Targeted therapies may be used in combination with chemotherapy or on their own.
  • Hormone therapy: Hormone therapy is a treatment that uses drugs to block the effects of certain hormones, such as estrogen, that can promote the growth of some types of ovarian cancer.

Immunotherapy is a promising treatment option for ovarian cancer.

Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) are the most commonly used immunotherapy drugs for ovarian cancer. They work by blocking proteins called checkpoints. This allows T cells to attack cancer cells more effectively.

Treatment for ovarian cancer depends on several factors and should be made in consultation with a healthcare professional.