The threat of serious illness from COVID-19 is a major concern for people with cancer. Cancer treatments can weaken your immune system, making you more likely to get an illness.

Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that boosts and supports your immune system in responding against cancer. If you or a loved one is receiving immunotherapy treatment for cancer, you may have concerns about how the COVID vaccine may affect your immune system and your treatment.

The article will answer some questions about immunotherapy cancer treatment.

How does immunotherapy work?

Different types of immunotherapy drugs are used to treat different types of cancer. Different types of drugs affect cancer cells differently. Your oncologist will discuss the best type of treatment for your diagnosis. Types include:

  • Monoclonal antibodies: These are molecules engineered in a laboratory to build a response against a specific disease. The monoclonal antibodies for cancer differ from those engineered to defend against or prevent COVID-19.
  • Immune checkpoint inhibitors: These are drugs that block proteins that turn off your immune response. They allow white blood cells called T cells to find and attack cancer cells.
  • Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy: This is a process that alters the genes inside your T cells. This helps them respond against cancer more effectively. Doctors often use CAR T-cell therapy to treat blood cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.

People with weakened immune systems are more likely to have poor outcomes from COVID-19. Vaccination can reduce your risk of developing severe COVID. Vaccination is important for people with a strong immune system.

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) and the American Cancer Society recommend that people with cancer, including those receiving treatment, get vaccinated as soon as possible. NCCN notes a few exceptions regarding immediacy:

  • Stem cell transplant patients should wait at least 3 months after treatment to get vaccine.
  • People getting CAR T-cell therapy or natural killer (NK) cell therapy should wait at least 3 months after treatment to get vaccinated.
  • People with cancer who have major surgery should wait a few days to 2 weeks after the procedure to get vaccine.

“Some cancer treatments reduce vaccine effectiveness, but they don’t eliminate vaccine effectiveness. You will get some protection from the vaccine even if you get more than one treatment. Treatments include:”

Vaccination and protective measures, such as wearing a mask and avoiding large crowds, give you more protection from COVID than you would have without them. Experts recommend that people with a history of cancer get a vaccine.

Before you get the vaccine, you should talk to your oncologist. If you are currently receiving treatment for cancer, it is best to wait until your immune system recovers. This will give you the best chance of getting an immune response.

The Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines are appropriate for people who take immunotherapy drugs. The vaccine is better for this population.

A 2021 study found that the Moderna vaccine was safe for people with solid tumors receiving The treatment is called Chemo., immunotherapy, or both. Their response to the vaccine was similar to those who did not have cancer. The groups also saw similar rates of side effects.

A separate 2021 study noted that people with solid tumors who had the Pfizer vaccine had similar antibody levels to those without cancer 6 months after vaccination. In the subgroup of people on immunotherapy, about 87% still had antibodies, compared to about 84% of the control group.

If you cannot get or do not want either of these vaccines, you can also get the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine.

Having cancer or taking immunotherapy drugs does not increase the possibility of serious side effects, such as allergic reactions or myocarditis.

Swelling in the lymph nodes under the arm on the same side as the injection site is a potential side effect of vaccination. While temporary, this can be concerning for people with breast cancer and other cancers.

“The swollen lysies caused by the vaccine should be gone within a few days. Let a healthcare professional know if the swelling doesn’t go away within a certain time.”

To date, researchers do not know definitively if immunotherapy drugs affect the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, either positively or negatively.

Scientific articles from 2021 and 2022 suggest that checkpoint inhibitors could theoretically boost your immune response to the COVID-19 vaccine. But both articles also state that no study has demonstrated such an effect.

Some immunotherapy drugs, such as CAR T-cells, may weaken the immune system temporarily. This may make the vaccine less effective. Other types of immunotherapy drugs, such as monoclonal antibodies, should not have this effect.

People with compromised immune systems may find it difficult to generate a robust response to the vaccine, no matter what type of cancer treatment they receive. This may be particularly true for people with blood cancers. For that reason, dosing protocols for people who are immunocompromised and have cancer differ from those used for the general public.

To date, no data indicate that the COVID vaccine reduces the effectiveness of immunotherapy medication. But there may be a 17% to 48% risk of side effects due to an overstimulated immune response, according to research.

A case report published in May 2021 suggests the potential for cytokine release syndrome after COVID vaccination in patients taking certain immunotherapy drugs. The study authors state that more data is needed and still favor vaccination for people with cancer.

A 2021 study involving 134 people found no adverse effects from immunotherapy drugs after receiving the Pfizer vaccine. The study’s authors also stressed the need for larger studies and more data, but supported vaccination for people receiving immunotherapy.

The timing of vaccination is important because of the impact of immunotherapy treatments. Talk to your oncologist about when you should get your vaccine.

If you have cancer or are immune compromised, you should get an additional dose of the vaccine. If any of the following situations apply, you may fall into one of these categories.

  • You are on therapy.
  • You are taking steroids to treat the side effects of immunotherapy drugs.
  • You’re getting cancer treatments such as The treatment is called Chemo. in addition to immunotherapy.
  • You started treatment after your first dose of COVID.
  • You will receive or will receive cancer treatment if you have cancer.
  • You have any type of blood cancer.
  • You have an immune-compromising condition, such as HIV.
  • You received an organ or stem cell transplant.
  • You got two vaccine doses and contracted a disease.

“Yes. Getting carbon dioxide does not guarantee you won’t get it again. With the ever-changing virus, contracting it more than once is commonplace.”

If you have had cancer treatments that cause you to be immunocompromised, it is important to get a vaccine. Talk to your oncologist about when you should get the vaccine.

If you have cancer, you are more likely to have serious problems. Certain immunotherapy drugs may affect your vaccine schedule. Talk to your oncologist about when you should schedule your vaccines.