Overview of Biological Treatment
- BCG or Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (ba-SIL-us KAL-met gay-RAIN) treats bladder tumors or bladder cancer.
- IL-2 or Interleukin-2 (in-ter-LOO-kin 2) treats certain types of cancer.
- Interferon alpha (in-ter-FEER-on AL-fa) treats certain types of cancer.
- Rituxan or Rituximab (ri-TUX-i-mab) treats non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
- Herceptin (her-SEP-tin) or Trastuzumab treats breast cancer.
- Make the cancer cell more visible to the immune system. A monoclonal antibody marks the cancer cell so that the immune system can recognize it as a danger.
- Block growth signals. Chemicals called growth factors signal the cancer and healthy cells to grow. Certain cancer cells make extra copies of the growth factor receptor so they grow faster than normal cells. Monoclonal antibodies can block these receptors and prevent the growth signal from getting through.
- Deliver radiation to cancer cells. By combining a radioactive particle with a monoclonal antibody, doctors can deliver radiation directly to the cancer cells. This way, most of the surrounding healthy cells aren't damaged. Radiation-linked monoclonal antibodies deliver a low level of radiation over a longer period of time, which researchers believe is as effective as the more conventional high-dose external beam radiation. Ibritumomab (Zevalin), approved for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, combines a monoclonal antibody with radioactive particles. The ibritumomab monoclonal antibody attaches to receptors on cancerous blood cells and delivers the radiation.
- Slip powerful drugs into cancer cells. Powerful anti-cancer drugs or toxins can be attached to monoclonal antibodies. The drugs remain inactive until they're inside the target cells, lowering the chance of harming other cells. Gemtuzumab (Mylotarg), approved for treating a certain type of acute myelogenous leukemia, is a monoclonal antibody attached to a potent anti-cancer drug made from a bacterium. The monoclonal antibody in gemtuzumab attaches to specific receptors on leukemic cells. Then the anti-cancer drug enters the cancer cell and is activated, causing the cancer cell to die.