Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center is a leader in treating certain types of cancer using vaccines and medications, which use the body’s immune system to fight cancer. Called immunotherapy, doctors prime the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. Immunotherapy targets only the cancer cells.

Immunotherapy works by:

  • Stopping or slowing the growth of cancer cells
  • Preventing cancer from spreading to other parts of the body
  • Boosting the immune system's ability to get rid of cancer cells

There are several types of immunotherapy for cancer.

Side Effects of Immunotherapy

The side effects for different types of immunotherapy for cancer differ by the type of treatment. Some side effects occur where the injection or IV enters the body, causing the area to be:

  • Sore or painful
  • Swollen
  • Red
  • Itchy

Other possible side effects include:

  • Flu-like symptoms (fever, chills, weakness, headache)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle or joint aches
  • Feeling very tired
  • Headache
  • Low or high blood pressure

These therapies can also cause a severe, sometimes fatal, allergic reaction in people sensitive to certain ingredients in the treatment. However, this is very rare.