Immunotherapies, which harness and enhance the body’s own defenses to kill cancer cells, have revolutionized the treatment of some forms of cancer. These drugs, known as “immune checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapies,” are providing new hope for many patients. But these drugs can trigger patients’ immune systems to overreact. They attack healthy cells, sometimes causing dangerous side effects known as immune related adverse events or irAES.
Recognizing the urgent need to reduce the impact of these side effects on patients’ quality of life without reducing their cancer-fighting value, the Mass General Cancer Center created the multidisciplinary Severe Immunotherapy Complications Service. It brings together expertise from across the institution to identify and care for affected patients and to solve the mystery of these sometimes irreversible side effects.