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Cancer & Biotherapy

Biotherapies are diverse in nature and each modality works on a slightly different premise, but each is a form of re-educating or stimulating the body's own system to fight disease more effectively.  Cancer therapies of a biological nature use modified or stimulated cells from either the cancer or the patient; or a controlled modification in the process of how those two types of cells interact.

Biological Response Modifiers

(BRMs) - work on boosting the body's immune system.  The majority of BRMs are classified as cytokines .  BRMs are used not only to inhibit tumor growth, but also to alter the interaction between the cancer and the body's defense mechanism.  These include:

Hematopoietic growth factors (HGFs) - includes colony stimulating factors (CSF), which encourage the growth of bone marrow stem cells.

Interleukin (ILs) - these naturally occurring lymphokines can stimulate activity and growth of the body's immune cells, such as lymphocytes.

Interferon (IFNs) - these naturally occurring cytokines boost the body's immune response and act directly on cancer cells to control their rapid growth.

Monoclonal antibodies (MABs) - antibodies that are produced in a laboratory setting by injecting cancer cells into mice and extracting the cells that make antibodies to fight off the cancer.  These cells are then attached to immortal cells to create a cell that will attack the cancer when re-injected into the patient.

Vaccines - used to stimulate the bodies own immune system.  They also prevent cancer cells from returning.

Nonspecific Immunomodulating Agents

Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) - stimulates inflammatory and immune responses.

Levamisole - works on boosting the immune system.


Biotherapy Resources


NCI - treating cancer with vaccine therapy.

NCI - using the immune system to treat cancer.