Biological Therapy (Immunotherapy)
Biological therapy, also known as immunotherapy, asimmunotherapy, biological response modifier
therapy, or biotherapy is a form of treatment that uses the body's immune system to fight cancer. The
cells, antibodies, and organs of the immune system of our body are the main defender which work to
protect and defend our body against foreign invaders, like bacteria or viruses. Based on research the
physicians and researchers have proved that the immune system can also help to both determine the
difference between healthy cells and cancer cells in our body, and to eliminate the cancer
Immunotherapy is therapy to repair, stimulate or enhance our own immune systemâ€™s responses to foreign cells, such as 'cancer'.
Our natural immune system is a highly complex network which is capable of combating a myriad of invaders. Biological therapies use substances those are now clinically produced in the laboratory and are similar to those naturally produced by the immune system, and used for the treatment of cancer. These biotherapy substances are collectively known as biological response modifiers or BRMs. These substances can kill lymphoma cells, decrease their growth rate, or make the patient's own immune system much more active to effectively fight the lymphoma.
How does this therapy works?
Either directly or indirectly these therapies are so desisned to boost the immune system..
- It makes foreign cells more recognizable to the immune system so that it can be easily destroyed by
the immune system.
- Increases the destroying power of the immune system cells.
- It changes the way cancer cells grows.
- It stops the process that change a normal cell to a cancerous cell
- It increases the body's ability to repair or replace normal cells damaged or destroyed by any other forms of cancer treatment like chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
- It prevents cancer cells from spreading to other parts of the body.
Role of the immune system in fighting against cancer?
Different types of white blood cells are present in the immune system and each has a different way to fight against foreign or diseased cells, including cancer.
1) lymphocytes : white blood cells, including B cells, T cells, and NK cells.
B cells : This produce antibodies which attack other cells.
T cells : This directly attack cancer cells and send signal to other immune system cells to defend and protect the body.
natural killer cells (NK cells) : This produce chemicals that can bind to and kill foreign invaders in the body.
2) Monocytes : Foreign particles are swallowed and digested by the whte blood cells.
3) Dendritic cells : It gives the foreign cells to the immune system to take care.
B cells, T cells, natural killer cells, and monocytes are types of white blood cells and are present in the blood which circulates to every part of the body which provides protection from cancer and other diseases. Antibodies and cytokines are two types of substances secreted by the cells. Antibodies responds to substances that they recognize as harmful, called antigens. Specific helpful antibodies locks together with specific foreign antigens which form a match. Proteins known as Cytokines are produced by some immune system cells which can directly attack cancer cells. Cytokines are like messengers which communicate with other cells.
Different types of biological therapies
The purpose of Biological response modifiers (BRMs) is to boost directly or to restore the bodyâ€™s ability to fight against certain infection or disease, like cancer. BRMs are produced in a laboratory. Various types of biological response modifiers include:
- gene therapy
- monoclonal antibodies
- colony-stimulating factors
- nonspecific immunomodulating agents
BRMs can be used alone, in combination of therapies or with traditional Radiotherapy and Chemotherapy cancer treatments.
What is colony-stimulating factors (CSFs)?
Proteins known as Colony-stimulating factors (CSFs) are given to patients, this encourages the stem cells within the bone marrow to increase the production of blood cells. New White blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets are constantly needed by our body especially when cancer is present. CSFs is given along with in order to boost the immune system. Actually when cancer patients receive chemotherapy, the ability of the bone marrow to produce new blood cells reduces, which makes patients more prone to develop infections. Parts of the immune system donot function without blood cells, so as to encourage the bone marrow to produce white blood cells, platelets, and red blood cells colony-stimulating factors is given. When the cell production is proper, this enables the patients to take other cancer treatments and safely receive higher doses of Chemotherapy.
What is cytokine therapy?
This therapy uses proteins known as cytokines which help the immune system to recognize and destroy those cells which are cancerous. Cytokines are produced by the immune system naturally in the body, however they can also be developed in the laboratory. Cytokine therapy is used with advanced melanoma and also with adjuvant therapy that is therapy given after or in addition to the primary treatment of cancer. To kill the cancer cells this therapy reaches all parts of the body and thus prevent tumors from growing.
What is vaccine therapy?
Vaccine therapy is an experimental biological therapy sill date.Scientifically the benefit of this therapy yet has not been proven. In the case of infectious diseases, mostly vaccines are given prior the disease develops. But cancer vaccines are given after the disease is recognized, when the tumor is small. Testing is been done by the scientists to judge the value of vaccines for melanoma and other cancers. In some cases vaccines are combined with other therapies like cytokine therapy.
According to an abstract from Department of Medical Oncology, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, USA. Despite recent advances in the chemotherapy of ovarian cancer, the development of alternative therapies that retain activity against drug-resistant tumors remains a high priority. Our knowledge regarding growth factors, cytokines, and the immune response continues to expand, and molecular biology has provided an increased diversity of reagents for clinical evaluation. This review focuses on regulatory targets in ovarian cancer, including Her2/neu (c-erbB2) and other growth factor receptors; interferons, interleukins, and other immunoregulatory cytokines; cellular adhesion molecules; antigen- specific T lymphocytes and adoptive immunotherapy; choice of monoclonal antibody reagents and advances in antibody engineering, including recombinant single-chain binding sites, chimeric proteins, radioconjugates, cytotoxic drug conjugates, immunotoxins, and bispecific antibodies. Although specific roles for biologic therapy in the management of ovarian cancer have yet to be defined, current priorities for clinical research are reviewed.
Side effects of biological therapies
Every individual is different and so is his medical profile and so his reaction to treatment also differs. Each patient can have side effects which may be severe, mild, or even absent. Once should discuss with his cancer care team regarding any or all possible side effects of treatment before the treatment begins. The side effects of biological therapy, is often like mimic flu-like symptoms and vary based to the type of therapy given.The following are some of the side effects like..
- bone pain
- bruise easily
- appetite loss
- muscle aches
- flu like symptoms
- lower blood pressure?
Mostly, cytokine therapy lead to side effects like fever, chills, aches, and fatigue. Other side effects include a rash or swelling at the site of injection. Therapy can also result in fatigue and bone pain and can even affect blood pressure and the heart.
Many new research are going in the field of cancer treatment. Regularly many new advancement are made towards a more healthy way of treating cancer.
Biologic therapy is also used in the treatment of other health conditions and diseases, like:
- hay fever
- food allergy
- allergic rhinitis
- Crohnâ€™s disease
- ulcerative colitis
- rheumatoid arthritis
- autoimmune diseases
- inflammatory bowel disease
Alternative cancer treatments are Chemotherapy, Radiotherapy, Surgical Oncology
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