Patient Response to Immunotherapy

Julie R. Brahmer, MD, Associate Professor, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, discusses patient response to immunotherapy.

Julie R. Brahmer, MD, Associate Professor, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, discusses patient response to immunotherapy.

When treating a patient with immunotherapy, it is crucial for a physician to distinguish between symptoms due to disease progression and those due to treatment. The main way that this is achieved is by monitoring how the patient is doing, Brahmer says.

If the patient is clinically well, and his/her disease is getting slightly worse, Brahmer says she allows her patients to remain on immunotherapy for an additional cycle. If that patient's disease continues to worsen, even if they feel well, Brahmer would not keep them on the drug. If the patient's cancer is getting worse and they are losing weight or experiencing pain, the patient should be taken off the drug and another type of therapy should be administered.

Clinical Pearls

Treatment decisions depend largely on how a patient is doing to see if it is possible to wait and monitor response to immunotherapy.

  • When treating a patient with immunotherapy, a physician must distinguish between symptoms due to disease progression and those due to treatment
  • An oncologist must monitor how a patient is doing to determine whether or not to continue treatment