Melanoma is one of the deadliest skin cancers, which claims thousands of lives each year. Any skin color can be affected by this cancer so doctors have aggressively addressed immunotherapy as a possible solution. A hopeful strategy includes the use of checkpoint inhibitors. These drugs boost your immune system so that it can fight off developing cancer cells. Take a close look at how melanoma is fought with checkpoint inhibitors.
The Body’s Natural Immune Response
Your body is a well-oiled machine when it comes to the immune response. Every minute of the day, the lymphatic system has millions of lymphocytes moving throughout the body. They’re essentially police officers among the tissues. If an abnormal cell appears to the T-cell lymphocytes, they activate their functions to eradicate the foreign body. Doctors are trying to use this natural mechanism to enhance immunotherapy.
With a natural immune response, you might believe that cancer could be fought in the same manner as the common cold. Cancer cells are much more devious. They’ve mutated over the years to mask themselves as normal body cells. When T-cells encounter a healthy cell, it doesn’t activate with an immune response. The T-cells pass by these checkpoints. Cancer, including melanoma, actually uses this checkpoint reaction to trick the T-cell into passing by.
Exploring the Inhibitor’s Job
Currently, medical professionals are using CTLA-4 and PD-1 inhibitors to reverse this checkpoint issue. By incorporating these inhibitors into the cancer patient, the cancer cells don’t have the functional capacity to mask their presence. As a result, T-cells can shore up their attack against the melanoma. Cancer patients must be calm during the treatment, however. It can take up to four months for the inhibitors to really settle into their role as immunity boosting tools.
Dosing and Appointment Frequencies
Immunotherapy with checkpoint inhibitors requires a doctor’s visit every two to three weeks. Your appointment frequency will vary based on your response to the therapy and the cancer’s overall progress. The inhibitor is normally injected into the patient over a short time period. Dosage amounts must be customized to the patient’s weight so that the ratios of inhibitors to cancer cells are properly balanced. Your dosage and therapy frequency is normally covered under insurance, but be aware of any copays that might be involved. Immunotherapy is still an expensive process.
Avoiding skin cancer is your goal throughout life. Don’t sunbathe or visit a tanning salon without sunscreen on your body. Ideally, stay out of the sun’s harsh rays and seek shade. Your skin is the largest organ in the human body so take good care of it.