Immunotherapy side effects can be broad and effectively described in a way that if you get side effects, you have effectively immune– autoimmune disease where your own body attacks, your own t-cells attacking healthy tissue not only the cancer, and this is really important to discuss with your clinical team.
If you experience such side effects to A: let us know early and B: come in and see us to really taper down the immune response; which we often very easy can do with, for example, steroids; which suppress the immune response. As opposed to the more complex side effects of chemotherapy of prolonged neutropenia, sepsis and all these things, immunotherapies are more of the type if they’re high grade an over shooting immune system which we usually can taper down with steroids.
What is important is that you have an experienced clinical team of nurse, doctor but also a wider support team of specialities like cardiology, pulmonology of doctors who can understand and manage immunotherapy related side effects. Again, what is reassuring and important these side effects are generally rare.
They can be managed by tapering down the immune response. In the context of metastatic cancer, I will give you one example. Up until recently, we could not treat melanoma.
Survival rates were around one year with the treatments we had available with chemotherapy or targeted therapies. We now know that about 30 percent of patients with metastatic melanoma who received immunotherapy had a 10 year survival rate. Completely game changer, complete game changer, not only melanoma but also other cancers like gastrointestinal cancers, lung cancers and a variety of other cancers.
That’s why we’re excited about immunotherapies. In the context of some side effects which we can manage generally very well, the outcome, the longevity of the immunotherapy that’s what we’re excited about. And in some cancers we can really say we have changed from a very acute illness which often ended in death into a chronic long-term disease with good quality of life for patients.