What is Immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy is a drug treatment that uses the human body’s own immune system to fight cancer.  It may be administered to patients intravenously in the Chemotherapy Unit of the hospital, but it is not the same as chemotherapy.

A number of cancer immunotherapies have been developed using different strategies to help boost the body’s immune response. Some immunotherapies help your immune system attack the cancer directly and some help to enhance your body’s immune response to fight the cancer. For example, some cancers trick the immune system by switching off certain pathways so that cancer cells are no longer recognized, allowing them to continue to grow. One type of immunotherapy helps fight cancer by switching on the pathways that the cancer cells have switched off, so that the immune system begins to recognize and attack the cancer. There are several other approaches to cancer immunotherapy as well.

There are different immunotherapies available in Canada to treat skin melanoma. In general, all treatment options can cause serious side effects; in some cases, there is even a risk of fatal side effects. That’s why it is always important to carefully weigh the benefits of any cancer treatment against the possible risks. You should discuss possible side effects with your doctor before starting treatment.

Immunotheraphy and the side effects

Created by Teresa Petrella, BSc, MD, MSc, FRCPC – Medical Oncologist, Associate Professor, University of Toronto; and the team at Odette Cancer Centre, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, as well as the Members of the Canadian Melanoma Task Force.

This informational video is also available in French.

What is Immunotheraphy?

Created by Massey Nematollahi, RN, CNS, OCN, CON, Immuno-Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist, William Osler Health System and Dr. Parneet Cheema, HBSc, MD, MBiotech, FRCPC, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto, Medical Oncologist, William Osler Health System

This informational video is also available in FrenchCantonesePunjabiSpanishJapaneseGermanand Italian.

Your Introduction to immuno-oncology therapy

This newly available immunotherapy resource includes information about cancer immunotherapy, your healthcare team, side effects, what to expect, getting the most from your appointments, and contains a treatment planner.

Learn more about these treatments>>

(Source: www.redefining-cancer-treatment.ca)

NCCN Guidelines for Patients®: Immunotherapy Side Effects series

NCCN Guidelines for Patients Explain How to Recognize and Manage Immunotherapy-Related Toxicities

Immunotherapy Side Effects: CAR T-Cell Therapy (Version: 2020)>>
Immunotherapy Side Effects: Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors (Version: 2020)>>

Decision-Support Tool for Stage III Melanoma

Customized for the Canadian audience, this pamphlet is a document to provide/discuss with patients that helps guide their decision making regarding next steps for stage III melanoma. Reviewed by Save Your Skin Foundation, updated February 2021:

Want to learn how to use the Stage III Decision-Support Tool? Peruse frequently asked questions about Stage III melanoma and learn how to use the support tool to guide your decision making. Also developed in collaboration with Save Your Skin Foundation, updated February 2021:

In collaboration with AIM at Melanoma we develop patient and health care provider resources relevant to the Canadian population:

AIM with Immunotherapy Resources for Canadian Health Care Providers

NEW! Decision-Support Tool for Stage IV Melanoma

Newly customized for the Canadian audience, this pamphlet, created by AIM at Melanoma and reviewed by Save Your Skin Foundation in March 2023, is a document to support patients and help guide their decision making regarding next steps for stage IV melanoma:

The document addresses:
– Stage IV melanoma clinical picture, biomarkers and pathology, and disease and patient factors involved in decision making
– Efficacy, safety, administration, and family-planning aspects of targeted therapies, immune checkpoint inhibitors, and other therapies used for stage IV melanoma

Click this image to view the full infographic at CONECTed.io

An up-to-date list of available treatments can be found on the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH) website’s Provincial drug formulary database, which can be accessed hereFor more information about immunotherapy and BRAF inhibitor therapies and whether they might be an option for you, ask your Doctor.

Listed above are a few sources of information and support you might find useful. These groups are not connected to Save Your Skin Foundation. We are providing the links as useful sources of information but do not monitor content for accuracy and quality.

NOTE: The information on the Save Your Skin website is not intended to replace the medical advice of a doctor or healthcare provider. While we make every effort to ensure that the information on our site is as current as possible, please note that information and statistics are subject to change as new research and studies are published. 

Making awareness and education available is crucial. Since 2006, the Foundation has worked to raise awareness of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers focusing on education, prevention and the need for improved patient care.