How Will Immunotherapy Help?

Our immune system is a powerful tool that hunts down and kills cancer cells in our bodies. However, cancer cells can be sneaky and hide from our immune system. Immunotherapy or biotherapy, strengthens your immune system and uses it to destroy these cancer cells.

You can take immunotherapy (or biological therapy) drugs as a pill (orally), by injection with a needle or into your vein (intravenously). The cancer’s location, treatment goal, type of drug and other factors help your care team decide the best way to give your immunotherapy.

Your oncologist may prescribe immunotherapy medication alone or with chemotherapy.

Your Treatment Team

At the Stronach Regional Cancer Centre (SRCC) at Southlake, your medical oncology team for immunotherapy is led by Dr. Peter Anglin, Physician Lead and includes medical oncologists, specialized oncology nurses, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, drug reimbursement specialists and other healthcare professionals.

What Happens?

Some immunotherapy drugs can be taken at home, while others must be given at the SRCC’s Chemotherapy Suite.

If your oncologist prescribes your immunotherapy:

  • In a pill, you can take it at home
  • By injection with a needle, you go to the SRCC at Southlake’s Chemotherapy Suite to start it
  • By injection into your vein (intravenously), you go to the SRCC at Southlake’s Chemotherapy Suite to receive it

Your Immunotherapy Treatment Process

Watch the following video to learn about immunotherapy (and chemotherapy) at the SRCC at Southlake. (If you are viewing this site on a smartphone, go to this page for the video.)

Day Before Visit

Every time you have an immunotherapy treatment, you will be scheduled for an appointment in the Out-patient Clinic on level one (1) one day before your treatment. The main purpose of the day before visit is to make sure that you are well enough to safely go ahead with immunotherapy treatment.

During your day before visit, you will have blood work, complete Your Symptoms Matter, and meet with your medical oncologist and nurse. You will have to wait about one hour for your blood test results before you see your oncologist.

The next day, you will restart your immunotherapy, which you: take at home if it’s by pill or applied to your skin; or return to the SRCC  at Southlake if it’s given by intravenous.

Your Treatment

On your scheduled immunotherapy treatment day, you will go to the Chemotherapy Suite, on level two (2) of the SRCC at Southlake. (This area is sometimes called the Systemic Therapy Suite, because immunotherapy, as well as chemotherapy and hormone therapy are all known as systemic therapies.)

Intravenous immunotherapy treatments can take 30 minutes to 10 hours. Your nurse will tell you in advance how long it will take. You must stay in the Chemotherapy Suite while your intravenous drugs are given (infused). During this time, you may have one caregiver or family member/friend with you for support. For safety reasons, children under 12 years of age are not allowed in the treatment area at any time.

How to Dress and What to Bring

For your comfort, we suggest you dress in layers because you may feel warm or cool at times during your treatment. Bring a bottle of water, snacks and lunch, if your appointment occurs during lunch time. If you have a support person with you, they can also buy food and drinks for you at nearby food outlets. Other items that might make you feel more comfortable include an extra pair of socks, your own music and headphones or games to help you pass the time.

Side Effects or Symptoms

You can experience side effects or symptoms with immunotherapy, such as flu-like symptoms, tiredness or a rash. Fortunately, they are usually are mild and go away once your body gets used to the medication.

Where to Get Help

It’s essential you tell your care team about any side effects you experience, so they can help you. Check the:

  • Managing Your Symptoms page for more information on how to manage your symptoms or side effects
  • Supportive Care to learn about services, programs and resources to help you before, during or after your treatment.

Challenges Getting to Your Treatments? – If you can’t afford the cost of travel, or are not physically well enough to use public transit, speak with a social worker on your care team or contact the Canadian Cancer Society, to learn how its Wheels of Hope program can help you find a solution.

 

To Book, Change or Cancel your Appointment:

Call 905-830-5800 and follow the prompts

Important Reminders – Before You Leave:

  • Be sure to ask your nurse or a member of your care team how long your next visit is expected to last.
  • If you are taking oral immunotherapy medications at home, with or without chemo, make sure you have enough medication to last until your next appointment with your oncologist. If you need a refill before your next appointment, call your community pharmacy and ask them to fax a prescription refill request to the SRCC at Southlake at 905-952-3051.  It can take up to two days to process a refill. For your safety, use the same community pharmacy for all of your prescriptions.

Questions? Need More Information?

What’s Next?

Click/tap these links to learn about the next steps in your experience, your options and where to get help:

  1. Prepare for Treatment to learn about your treatment plan and how to prepare for it
  2. Managing Your Symptoms (or side effects) to help you get through your treatment, as comfortably as possible
  3. Supportive Care to help you before, during or after your treatment
  4. Beyond Treatment to learn about options and help beyond treatment