Are there any drawbacks or side-effects to the use of immunotherapy?

As with all medical interventions, there is always the risk for off-target effects of immunotherapy. However, as with any FDA-approved treatment, immunotherapies available for patient use have all undergone extensive efficacy and safety testing.1 A physician should only prescribe an immunotherapy for an approved indication after weighing the risks and benefits of the treatment for a given patient.

Immunotherapies exert their effects by modulating the immune system’s response to a range of antigens. Given the importance of the immune system’s baseline functions to daily life, any upregulation or downregulation may produce side effects. Only a physician will be able to assess the severity of the side effects and the perceived benefit of continued treatment, which is why immunotherapies require the same rigorous vetting as other drugs.

1. K.M. Morrissey, et al., “Immunotherapy and Novel Combinations in Oncology: Current Landscape, Challenges, and Opportunities,” Clin Transl Sci 9(2):89-104, 2016.