Chemotherapy & Immunotherapy

Chemotherapy and immunotherapy treat your cancer with medicine. You may receive treatment through a pill you swallow. Or, a health care professional may send the medicine into a vein in your body, using a type of treatment called infusion therapy.

Feel confident knowing the Essentia nurse who gives you this treatment is certified in providing chemotherapy and immunotherapy. At many Essentia Health locations, you’ll find private, peaceful infusion rooms with amenities such as heated blankets and massage chairs.


Chemotherapy destroys fast-growing cells in your body, especially cancer cells. Because chemotherapy affects parts of your body other than cancer tumors, you’ll experience some side effects. Take advantage of Essentia support services that make you feel better in body and mind.

Oral Chemotherapy

In the Fargo, North Dakota area and Duluth, Minnesota area, you may work with a special patient navigator who helps you manage oral chemotherapy medicine and its side effects. You’ll learn about:

Intrathecal Chemotherapy

If cancer affects your central nervous system, you may get intrathecal chemotherapy. This approach delivers medicine through a spinal tap or under your scalp.


Immunotherapy, also called biotherapy, uses medicines to make your body’s natural defenses fight cancer. Some types of immunotherapy are targeted therapies. That means they focus on cancer-related cells and leave healthy cells alone.

You’ll notice fewer side effects with immunotherapy than with chemotherapy. You may get immunotherapy as part of a care plan that also includes chemotherapy or radiation.

Your doctor might recommend a checkpoint inhibitor, a type of immunotherapy that lets your immune system respond more strongly than usual. This treatment may help you if you have:

  • Advanced bladder cancer
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Kidney cancer
  • Metastatic melanoma
  • Non-small cell lung cancer

Medical Insight: Immunotherapy - Essentia Health Video Transcript


The Essentia Health logo appears, consisting of three leaves in a circle. Text, Essentia Health, Medical Insight. An animation of cancer cells circle and pulse.

TRACY BRIGGS: It's being called a revolutionary development in treating cancer. Immunotherapy is becoming a viable cancer treatment alongside more traditional treatment options like surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Dr. Tadeu Ambros, oncologist.

TADEU AMBROS: Immunotherapy is an anticancer therapy that works by activating the immune system to attack the cancer cells. TRACY BRIGGS: Dr. Tadeu Ambros is a medical oncologist at Essentia Health in Fargo, who says that unlike chemotherapy, which uses medications to attack a tumor, immunotherapy triggers your own body to attack and kill cancer cells that may disguise themselves as normal cells. TADEU AMBROS: So immunotherapy will interfere with the signaling and kind of taking the disguise out of the cancer cells, so the immune system learns to attack it as it was an invading cell from outside of the body.

Animations depict treatment progression for melanomas and abdominal cancers.

TRACY BRIGGS: Starting as a treatment for melanoma, immunotherapy has also been found to be effective on lung, bladder, and kidney cancer. And studies are underway concerning its effectiveness on other cancers, including breast cancer. TADEU AMBROS: It's not really about the type of cancer. But it's whether or not they have the right mutations and biomarkers expressed in the cancer cells.

An animation depicts immunotherapy destroying a cancer cell.

TRACY BRIGGS: Dr. Ambros says once your doctor has determined that immunotherapy is right for you, you'll receive a 30 minute intravenous infusion every two to four weeks to activate a strong immune response and teach your body to spot cancerous cells. As for side effects, Dr. Ambros says you should have fewer side effects than you would have with chemotherapy. And they tend to be a little more manageable, things like cough or diarrhea versus the extreme nausea and hair loss you might experience with chemotherapy. While Dr. Ambros says immunotherapy is a relatively new approach, it is yielding positive outcomes. Better yet, he says, within the next two to four years, medical science should learn a lot more about just how far immunotherapy can go in the fight against cancer. With this Essentia Health Medical Insight, I'm Tracy Briggs.

The Essentia Health logo appears, consisting of three leaves in a circle. Text, Essentia Health, Medical Insight.

Specialty Pharmacy

Find some cancer medicines through Essentia Health-Specialty Pharmacy. Choose to pick up your prescription drugs or receive them by mail or delivery service.

Ask for a Referral

You’ll need a referral from your oncologist for this service.

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