Biological Therapy

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What is Biological Therapy?

Biological Therapy is a type of treatment that uses substances made from living organisms to treat disease. These substances may occur naturally in the body or may be made in the laboratory. In cancer, some biological therapies stimulate or suppress the immune system to help the body fight cancer.

Other therapies attack specific cancer cells, which may help keep them from growing or kill them. They may also lessen certain side effects caused by some cancer treatments.

Types of biological therapy include immunotherapy (such as cytokines, cancer treatment vaccines, and some antibodies) and some targeted therapies. Also called biological response modifier therapy, biotherapy, and BRM therapy.

How therapy works

The goal of the therapy for cancer is to induce your immune system to recognize and kill cancer cells.

Your body’s immune system fights invaders, such as germs, throughout your body. Your immune system should also recognize cancer cells as abnormal, but it doesn’t always do that. Cancer cells can develop an ability to hide from immune system cells. Or cancer cells can disable or inhibit immune system cells from acting.

In general, biological therapies work by:

  • Inducing the immune system to attack cancer cells. There are several ways  therapy treatments can achieve this goal. As an example, chemicals that stimulate your immune system cells could be injected into your body. Or a sample of your immune system cells could be trained in a lab to attack cancer cells before being reintroduced to your body.
  • Making cancer cells easier for your immune system to recognize. The therapy can also target the cancer cells, turning on or off cell signals that help them elude the immune system cells. As an example, drugs called immune checkpoint inhibitors can target specific chemical receptors on cancer cells, blocking the signals the cancer cells send to suppress the immune system.

Types of biological therapy

Several types of the therapy exist, including:

  • Adoptive cell transfer
  • Angiogenesis inhibitors
  • Bacillus Calmette-Guerin therapy
  • Biochemotherapy
  • Cancer vaccines
  • Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy
  • Cytokine therapy
  • Gene therapy
  • Immune checkpoint modulators
  • Immunoconjugates
  • Monoclonal antibodies
  • Oncolytic virus therapy
  • Targeted drug therapy

Many types of biological therapy are available only in clinical trials. Biological therapy for cancer is a very active area of cancer research.