How immunotherapy is given
Checkpoint immunotherapy is usually given directly into a vein through an intravenous drip. Sometimes two checkpoint inhibitor drugs are given together, or a checkpoint inhibitor drug is given with a chemotherapy or targeted therapy drug.
You will usually have checkpoint immunotherapy as an outpatient, which means you visit the hospital or treatment centre for the day. You may have treatment every 2–4 weeks in a repeating cycle.
How often and how long you have the treatment depends on:
- the type of cancer and how advanced it is
- the type of checkpoint inhibitor/s
- how you respond to treatment
- what side effects, if any, you experience.
Many people stay on immunotherapy for up to two years, but clinical trials are now testing if the treatment can be given for a shorter period of time once it has started working or whether ongoing treatment is necessary.
Because immunotherapy drugs act directly on the body’s own immune system, how long they keep working will vary from person to person. Sometimes, they keep working long after treatment stops.
Listen to our podcast on New Cancer Treatments – Immunotherapy and Targeted Therapy
A/Prof Brett Hughes, Senior Staff Specialist, Medical Oncology, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital and The Prince Charles Hospital, and Associate Professor, The University of Queensland, QLD; Dawn Bedwell, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland, QLD; Tamara Dawson, Consumer; A/Prof Craig Gedye, Senior Staff Specialist, Medical Oncology, Calvary Mater Newcastle, and Conjoint Associate Professor, School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Newcastle, NSW; A/Prof Alexander Menzies, Medical Oncologist, Associate Professor of Melanoma Medical Oncology, and Faculty Member, Melanoma Institute Australia, The University of Sydney, Royal North Shore Hospital and Mater Hospital, NSW; Dr Donna Milne, Nurse Consultant Melanoma and Skin Service, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Geoffrey Peters, Staff Specialist, Medical Oncology, Canberra Hospital and Health Services, and Clinical Lecturer, Australian National University, ACT.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
Click below to download a PDF booklet on this topic.