Immunotherapy is a breakthrough treatment that strengthens the immune system – enabling it to recognize, remember, and fight cancer cells. The treatment, applied through an immune checkpoint blocker, may help slow down or stop the growth of cancer cells in the patient’s body – boosting overall survival and improving the quality of life.
To learn more about immunotherapy and how it may help you or a loved one, talk to a medical oncologist.
Danny Dimabuyu, a 56-year-old who worked as a security guard, was diagnosed with melanoma or skin cancer. He tried radiotherapy for a few months and was declared cancer-free. However, he first noticed a cyst that was growing near one of his armpits even after the treatment.
The doctor told Danny that his skin cancer has returned and spread throughout his body. All hope seems to have been lost until his doctor gave him immunotherapy as a treatment option.
Danny even asked if he needed to shave his head for the treatment, but the doctor said that would not be necessary. The side effects of immunotherapy are more manageable compared to chemotherapy, which is the most popular treatment option for cancer in the Philippines.
“Nung nagumpisa ako tinanong ko, ‘Doc magpapakalbo na ba ako? Magpapakalbo na ako’ Sabi niya ‘Hindi! Wag ka magpakalbo. Hindi sya chemo, immunotherapy. Iba yung chemo’,” said Danny.
Even before all the doses of immunotherapy were done, Danny was declared cancer-free. However, they still finished the full set of recommended doses just to be sure.
Danny said: “Nung pagkasaksak nung gamot, wala akong naramdaman. Nung una, ine-expect ko manghihina ako. Nung pangalawang PET CT scan ko, naging maganda na yung resulta. Yung anim na nakita nila (na tumor) at pati sa tiyan na pang-pito, nawala lahat yun.”
Danny is sharing his story now to inspire cancer patients to not lose hope.
QUOTES FROM SPECIALISTS
“With the availability of targeted therapies and new treatment options like immunotherapy, there’s hope to prolong life.”
“The interesting thing about immunotherapy is, when a head and neck cancer patient is responsive to it, he or she will continue to receive the benefits of the treatment. So when you follow these patients for two years, you’ll find that 70 to 80 percent of them remain responsive to the treatment.”
“There was a lot of skepticism in the medical community that something as gentle as immunotherapy could work for something as aggressive as cancer. But from recent clinical trials we now know that it could be effective in the right circumstances.”
“In the past, majority of lung cancer patients can only live one year. The median survival is only around a year to 17 months. But with the introduction of immunotherapy, the patient can live longer; the response rate is high and is more consistent.”