Biological therapy (also called biological response modifier, or BRM; and immunotherapy) uses the body's own immune system to destroy cancer cells.

Biological therapy is still experimental, but shows great promise. There are several different types of biological therapy for cancer:

  • Immunostimulant therapy
  • Immunoglobulin therapy
  • Monoclonal antibodies

Immunostimulant therapy uses two different procedures:

  • One uses substances called immunostimulants, which activate the immune system.
  • Another procedure involves inoculating the patient with tumorcells or cellular extracts taken from someone else with the same disease. The substances are rendered harmless by irradiation and introduced into the patient, causing the patient's own immune system to react against them and produce antibodies that attack the tumor cells.

Immunoglobulin therapy uses already-made antibodies called immunoglobulins from another person with the same type of tumor. These are given directly to the patient. The immunoglobulins then act against the cancer cells.

Monoclonal antibody therapy is a recent development in immunotherapy. It involves the use of genetically engineered substances called monoclonal antibodies that are produced in a laboratory. Monoclonal antibodies are designed to neutralize specific targets (antigens) and are linked with specific cancer-killing substances like Interferon to increase their ability to target and destroy tumor cells.

Side Effects Of Biological Therapy

Side effects of biological therapy vary depending on the type of treatment, but can include the following:

  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Bruising

At times these symptoms may become severe enough that a hospital stay is necessary for part or all of the treatment.

A risk with immunotherapy is that the treatments may be recognized as foreign by the person's immune system. When this happens, allergic reactions can occur, as well as new antibody production, which interferes with the targeting of the cancer.