Biological therapy is a type of cancer treatment that focuses on using the patient’s immune system to kill cancer cells. It is currently only available in clinical trials and is an active area of cancer research. Also called biological response modifier therapy, bio-therapy and BRM therapy, advances in medicine are allowing researchers to fight cancer with even more sophisticated methods than ever before. With this particular type of treatment the body’s own immune system aids in targeting and getting rid of cancer causing cells.
What does that mean for those diagnosed with cancer? The treatment is said to cause fewer toxic side effects than traditional cancer treatments, and is used in several types of cancer to prevent or slow tumor growth. This reduces the spread of cancer, and in few cases, has caused the cancer to disappear completely.
How Biological Therapy Works
The immune system is very complex and is designed to fight foreign germs that invade your body. It is made up of a network of organs, tissues and specialized cells that are able to recognize and destroy foreign intruders like bacteria or viruses. These intruders or antigens are foreign to the body and therefore must be destroyed by the white blood cells. The white blood cells patrol the body looking for these antigens and diseased, dead or damaged cells and rid the body of them.
In theory, your immune system should also recognize cancer cells as abnormal and get rid of them naturally. Destroying the abnormal cells can prevent the development of cancers. If the world was perfect, your immune system would take care of these damaged and diseased cancer cells on its own, but unfortunately this isn’t always the case. Some cancer cells can inhibit or disable immune system cells from acting. In other cases cancer cells are able to hide from immune system cells.
The goal of this treatment is to induce your immune system into recognizing and killing cancer cells. It increases the activity of a patient’s immune system components to work one of two ways:
Induce a patient’s immune system to attack cancer cells. Chemicals are introduced to the body to stimulate immune system cells, or a sample of your immune system cells could be removed and trained in a lab to attack cancer cells before being reintroduced into your body.
Make cancer cells more recognizable for your immune system. By targeting cancer cells and turning on or off cell signals they become less elusive and aren’t able to hide from immune system cells.
Types of Biological Therapy
There are several types of biological therapy that exist, and more types are being introduced in clinical trials daily. These forms of biological therapy make it possible for those patients’ diagnosed to receive every possible treatment available.
- Adoptive cell transfer
- Angiogenesis inhibitors
- Bacillus Calmette-Guerin therapy
- Cancer vaccines
- Cytokine therapy
- Gene therapy
- Monoclonal antibodies
- Oncolytic virus therapy
- Targeted drug therapy
Biological therapy isn’t for everyone. The best option is to consult physician to learn more about how biological therapy will affect your body and decide if it is an option you would like to pursue.