Chemoimmunotherapy is the term used when chemotherapy drugs are combined with Immunotherapy for the treatment of cancer. There are questions among many people about whether it is effective to treat cancer using both. Before going to the answer by experts, let us look at the two types of treatments separately.
What is Chemotherapy?
It is the treatment in which drugs directly kill cancer cells by interfering with the process of cell division. Chemotherapy drugs can not only kill cancer cells but may work in another way as well. It’s been found that certain drugs such as Adriamycin help in activating immune responses that can lead to further death of cancer cells. This process termed spontaneous remission of cancer or the immune response is, in fact, the basis for the newly introduced cancer treatment called immunotherapy.
What is Immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy unlike chemotherapy does not directly kill cancer cells. Instead, these treatments are, simplistically, designed to enhance our immune system’s ability to fight cancer. It works towards building the immune system so that it can do a better job of fighting cancer. However, the research is going on to make this therapy prove effective for all kinds of cancer patients.
With some tumors, it’s thought that the cancer cells don’t look abnormal enough to initiate a strong immune response. For instance, to mount the immune response to cancer, the immune system needs to clearly see cancer or antigens on the surface of the cells.
Hence, comes the role of combining chemotherapy and immunotherapy. Chemotherapy and Immunotherapy combination Experts believe that the combination of the two therapies will result in synergy; one treatment will enhance the effect of the other, and vice versa. In other words, the objective is combining one plus one to get four.
Both chemotherapy and immunotherapy are systemic therapies. It means that they address cancer cells wherever they happen to be in the body. These differ from local treatments such as surgery or radiation therapy. Those treatments only address cancer where it arises. They do not reach the tumor.
There are various clinical trials executed that combined immunotherapy with chemotherapy to shrink lung cancers before removing them surgically. According to findings, this combination has reduced the risk of recurrence, progression, or death by 37% compared to patients who received chemo alone.
A combination of immunotherapy and chemotherapy should be used as first-line treatment for many patients with non-small cell lung cancer and some patients with small cell lung cancer. This is because medical experts suggest that chemotherapy if it keeps the immune system intact, can work well with immunotherapy.