Medical Treatment: Biological Therapy
Biological therapies are sometimes referred to as immunotherapy because they take advantage of the body's natural immunity against pathogens. These therapies are attractive because they offer anticancer effects without many of the undesirable side effects of standard therapies. There are many different types of biological therapies. The following are some of the most promising for treating lymphoma:
- Monoclonal antibodies: Antibodies are substances produced by our body to fight pathogens. Every cell, organism, or pathogen within our body carries markers on its surface that antibodies may recognize. These surface markers are called antigens. A monoclonal antibody is an antibody that is made in a laboratory to find and attach itself to a specific antigen. Monoclonal antibodies can be used to help one's own immune systems kill tumor cells and other pathogens directly, or they can deliver cancer-killing therapies (such as radiation or chemotherapy) directly to a specific antigen found on cancer cells.
- Cytokines: These naturally occurring chemicals are produced by the body to stimulate the cells in the immune system and other organs. They can also be produced artificially and administered in large doses to patients with greater effect. Examples include interferons and interleukins, which stimulate the immune system, and colony-stimulating factors, which stimulate the growth of blood cells.
- Vaccines: Unlike the more familiar vaccines for infectious diseases such as polio and flu, cancer vaccines do not prevent the disease. Rather, they are designed to stimulate the immune system to mount a specific response against the cancer. They also create a "memory" of the cancer so that the immune system activates very early in cases of recurrence, thus preventing the development of a new tumor.
Other therapies that are primary or supportive medications are undergoing continuing development and refinement; they include drugs that target cancer cells on a molecular level, various new monoclonal antibodies, and other biologic therapies such as steroids and bone marrow stimulants.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/25/2016
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