Dr Mohammed Ezzi talks to ecancer about his AORTIC talk on managing immune-related adverse effects in Africa.
He begins by giving some background to immune checkpoint inhibitors for immunotherapy, explaining that since their discovering in the mid 2000s they are now approved for the treatment of 19 cancers, 2 indicators of which are agnostic. This means that as long as the patient has the right biomarker, this therapy can be used. However, due to the mechanism of action, the immune system tends to target healthy cells, creating adverse effects that are not commonly seen with conventional chemotherapy.
Dr Ezzi then goes onto to say that one of his aims is to appraise, teach and make aware both oncologists and non-oncologist physicians of immune-related adverse effects and how they can be treated. He says that because immune checkpoint inhibitors are a relatively new novel therapy, they may only be given in a centralise hospital in an urban setup, and a patient may be travelling from more rural areas. One of the most common adverse effects is diarrhoea or colitis, and it's plausible that if a patient gets one of these adverse effects they will not come back to the hospital in the central area to be seen, but may seek help in a nearby local facility where the doctor may not know the causes of the patient's illness and may treat them for something completely different.
He concludes by saying that what is needed most in Africa in regards to immunotherapy is for more research to be carried out and for more studies on immune-related adverse effects and then to pass on the findings and knowledge to fellows, residents and other medical colleagues.