Using Your Body’s Immune System to Fight Cancer


You know your immune system fights off diseases such as the flu, but did you know it also can fight cancer? Immunotherapy is a new type of medicine proven to be highly effective in treating certain types of cancer. Because immunotherapy typically has fewer side effects than traditional chemotherapy cancer treatment, your Penn Highlands Healthcare medical oncologist may prescribe immunotherapy depending on the type and stage of cancer you have.

How Does Immunotherapy Work?

Different types of immunotherapy work in different ways. Some immunotherapies boost your body’s natural immune system overall to fight off cancer. Other types of immunotherapy help your immune system identify cancer cells and attack them specifically.

Immunotherapy includes treatments that work with the immune system in different ways and works better for some types of cancer than for others.

Immunotherapy may be used by itself or with other types of treatment. The main types of immunotherapy being used to treat cancer include:

  • Monoclonal Antibodies
  • Immune Checkpoint inhibitors
  • Cancer vaccines

Am I Eligible for Immunotherapy?

Whether you are eligible for immunotherapy depends on what type of cancer you have and your individualized treatment plan. Not every cancer – and not every cancer patient – can be treated with immunotherapy at this time. If you are eligible, your medical oncologist may include immunotherapy in your treatment plan alone or in conjunction with other treatments, such as surgery or radiation. Or, it may be added to your care plan later, in the event other treatments stop working. Penn Highlands oncologists typically use immunotherapy to treat advanced cancers, but you may receive immunotherapy for early stage cancers as well.

Currently, immunotherapy drugs have been developed to treat:

Where is Immunotherapy Delivered at PHH?

Immunotherapy is typically administered via an IV or injection at one of our cancer infusion centers. Immunotherapy is administered by an oncology nurse at our Penn Highlands Hahne Cancer Center in DuBois, in Clearfield, Ridgway campus at Penn Highlands Elk, or at Penn Highlands Brookville campus.

What Is the Difference Between Immunotherapy and Targeted Therapy?

Both immunotherapy and targeted therapy use medicines to attack cancer. Immunotherapy uses drugs to help your natural immune system fight cancer. Targeted therapy is a different type of medicine used to treat cancer at the cellular level. Also called personalized medicine, targeted therapies generally work in one of four ways:

  • Blocking certain chemical signals that tell cancer cells to grow and divide
  • Altering proteins inside cancer cells so they die off
  • Stopping blood vessel production and therefore cutting off blood supply to cancer cells
  • Identifying cancer cells and then delivering toxins to kill them, while bypassing normal cells

Targeted therapy works better on some cancers than others and new therapies are regularly being developed. At Penn Highlands, we currently offer targeted therapies for lung, kidney, and colorectal cancers, as well as some skin, gynecologic, and breast cancers.

Immunotherapy at Penn Highlands

Immunotherapy is provided in the serene surrounding at the Penn Highlands Hahne Cancer Center next to Penn Highlands Clearfield.

  • Chemotherapy
  • Hematology
  • Immunotherapy
  • Medical Oncology

Hahne Cancer Center - Clearfield

815 Doctors' Drive
Clearfield, PA 16830

Immunotherapy is provided in the serene surrounding at the Hahne Cancer Center at Penn Highlands DuBois West.

  • Chemotherapy
  • Hematology
  • Immunotherapy
  • Medical Oncology
  • Radiation Oncology

Hahne Cancer Center - DuBois

100 Hospital Avenue
DuBois, PA 15801

Immunotherapy is provided in the serene surrounding at the Penn Highlands Brookville Short Stay Unit.

  • Chemotherapy
  • Hematology
  • Immunotherapy
  • Medical Oncology

Penn Highlands Brookville

100 Hospital Road
Brookville, PA 15825

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Upcoming Using Your Body’s Immune System to Fight Cancer Events

November 2021146:00 PM

Breast Cancer Support Group - Nov 2021


December 2021126:00 PM

Breast Cancer Support Group - Dec 2021