The challenges of immunotherapy

You may have several questions and concerns about having immunotherapy. There have been media reports of how immunotherapy is a “miracle drug” and how it can cure cancer. Some people, especially with advanced melanoma, have had encouraging outcomes. Because of these factors, people’s expectations can be high when starting treatment.

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Listen to our podcast on New Cancer Treatments – Immunotherapy and Targeted Therapy

Will it work?

The most challenging issue is that checkpoint immunotherapy doesn’t work for everyone – only a small number of people respond well to immunotherapy. The percentage is higher for some cancers such as melanoma. To make the benefits of immunotherapy available to more people in the future, researchers are trying to understand why some people respond better than others.

If immunotherapy doesn’t work or stops working, ask your doctors about your other treatment options. You may be able to try another type of immunotherapy drug or join a clinical trial.

How long will it take to work?

As most checkpoint immunotherapy takes a while to work, people and their families may experience anxiety waiting to see whether they’ll respond to the treatment. And if it does work, some people are always wondering how long immunotherapy will control the cancer or whether the cancer will come back.

Let your nurse or doctor know how you’re feeling. They may recommend you see a psychologist to work through your thoughts. For more information on coping with uncertainty, download Cancer Council’s Emotions and Cancer from this page.

How will I know whether the immunotherapy is working?

You will have regular check-ups with your doctor, blood tests and different types of scans to check whether the cancer has responded to treatment.

It may take some time to know whether immunotherapy has worked because some people have a delayed response. Occasionally, people may see their cancer get worse before improving.

A good response from immunotherapy will make the cancer shrink. In some cases, the cancer remains stable, which means it doesn’t increase in size on scans but also does not decrease or disappear. People with stable disease can continue to have a good quality of life.

How much will it cost?

The cost of checkpoint immunotherapy is high. As of June 2017, only treatment for melanoma is reimbursed by the PBS, but reimbursement for kidney and lung cancers is expected soon.

Some immunotherapy drugs may be available through clinical trials or, sometimes, through a compassionate access program.

To access immunotherapy for cancers that are not currently reimbursed, some people choose to make significant financial decisions to cover the costs. Before considering paying for these drugs, ask your doctor for details about the benefits of immunotherapy for your type of cancer.

Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on Immunotherapy.

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Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

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To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
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Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

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Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
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Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.

This information was last reviewed in June 2017
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