Cancer survival rates are generally increasing in the United States. These trends have been partially attributed to improvement in therapeutic strategies. Cancer immunotherapy is an example of one of the newer strategies used to fight cancer, which primes or activates the immune system to produce antitumor effects. The first half of this review paper concisely describes the cell mechanisms that control antitumor immunity and the major immunotherapeutic strategies developed to target these mechanisms. The second half of the review discusses in greater depth immune checkpoint inhibitors that have recently demonstrated tremendous promise for the treatment of diverse solid tumor types, including melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer, and others. More specifically, the mechanisms of action, side effects, and patient and family management and education concerns are discussed to provide oncology nurses up-to-date information relevant to caring for cancer-affected patients treated with immune checkpoint inhibitors. Future directions for cancer immunotherapy are considered.
Keywords: Cancer immunotherapy; immune checkpoint inhibitor; oncology nursing; symptom management.