What is biological therapy?
Biological therapy is a type of treatment that works with your immune system. It can help fight cancer or help control side effects (how your body reacts to the drugs you are taking) from other cancer treatments like chemotherapy.
nonspecific immunomodulating agentsNonspecific immunomodulating agents are biological therapy drugs that stimulate the immune system, causing it to produce more cytokines and antibodies to help fight cancer and infections in the body. Fighting infection is important for a person with cancer.
interferons (IFN)Interferons (IFN) are a type of biological response modifier that naturally occurs in the body. They are also produced in the laboratory and given to cancer patients in biological therapy. They have been shown to improve the way a cancer patient's immune system acts against cancer cells. Interferons may work directly on cancer cells to slow their growth, or they may cause cancer cells to change into cells with more normal behavior. Some interferons may also stimulate natural killer cells (NK) cells, T cells, and macrophages - types of white blood cells in the bloodstream that help to fight cancer cells.
interleukins (IL)Interleukins (IL) stimulate the growth and activity of many immune cells. They are proteins (cytokines) that occur naturally in the body, but can also be made in the laboratory. Some interleukins stimulate the growth and activity of immune cells, such as lymphocytes, which work to destroy cancer cells.
colony-stimulating factors (CSFs)Colony-stimulating factors (CSFs) are proteins given to patients to encourage stem cells within the bone marrow to produce more blood cells. The body constantly needs new white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets, especially when cancer is present. CSFs are given, along with chemotherapy, to help boost the immune system. When cancer patients receive chemotherapy, the bone marrow's ability to produce new blood cells is suppressed, making patients more prone to developing infections.
Parts of the immune system cannot function without blood cells, thus colony-stimulating factors encourage the bone marrow stem cells to produce white blood cells, platelets, and red blood cells. With proper cell production, other cancer treatments can continue enabling patients to safely receive higher doses of chemotherapy.
monoclonal antibodiesMonoclonal antibodies are agents, produced in the laboratory, that bind to cancer cells. When cancer-destroying agents are introduced into the body, they seek out the antibodies and kill the cancer cells. Monoclonal antibody agents do not destroy healthy cells.
Examples of monoclonal antibody therapy include trastuzumab (Herceptin®) for breast cancer and rituximab (Rituxan®) for lymphoma.
cytokine therapyCytokine therapy uses proteins (cytokines) to help your immune system recognize and destroy those cells that are cancerous. Cytokines are produced naturally in the body by the immune system, but can also be produced in the laboratory. This therapy is used with advanced melanoma and with adjuvant therapy (therapy given after or in addition to the primary cancer treatment). Cytokine therapy reaches all parts of the body to kill cancer cells and prevent tumors from growing.
vaccine therapyVaccine therapy is still an experimental biological therapy. The benefit of vaccine therapy has not yet been proven. With infectious diseases, vaccines are given before the disease develops. Cancer vaccines, however, are given after the disease develops, when the tumor is small. Scientists are testing the value of vaccines for melanoma and other cancers. Sometimes, vaccines are combined with other therapies such as cytokine therapy.
What is the difference between biological therapy and chemotherapy ?
Biological therapy and chemotherapy are both treatments that fight cancer. While they may seem alike, they work in different ways. Biological therapy helps your immune system fight cancer. Chemotherapy attacks the cancer cells directly.
How does biological therapy fight cancer ?
Doctors are not sure how biological therapy helps your immune system fight cancer.
But they think it may : -
- Stop or slow the growth of cancer cells.
- Make it easier for your immune system to destroy, or get rid of, cancer cells.
- Keep cancer from spreading to other parts of your body.
What is my immune system and how does it work ?
Your immune system includes your spleen, lymph nodes, tonsils, bone marrow, and white blood cells. These all help protect you from getting infections and diseases.
When your immune system works the way it should, it can tell the difference between "good" cells that keep you healthy and "bad" cells that make you sick. But sometimes this doesn't happen. Doctors are doing research to learn why some immune systems don't fight off diseases like cancer.
White blood cells are an important part of your immune system.
When your doctor or nurse talks about your white blood cells, he or she may use words like :-
- Monocytes are types of white blood cells.
- Lymphocytes are types of white blood cells.
- B cells are kinds of lymphocytes.
- T cells are kinds of lymphocytes.
- Natural killer cells are kinds of lymphocytes.
Parts of the immune system
What are some questions to ask my doctor or nurse about biological therapy ?
Your treatment choices depend on the type of cancer you have, how far your cancer has spread, and the treatments you have already tried. For some people, biological therapy is the best treatment choice.
Will biological therapy be my only treatment ?
Some people only need biological therapy. Others also get chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Talk with your doctor about the kind of treatment you will be on and how it can help.
Where do I go to get my treatment ?
Some biological therapy are pills or shots that you can take at home. Others are given through an IV, and you must go to the hospital or clinic to get them. If this is the case, find out how long you will need to stay at the hospital or clinic.
How often will I get my treatment ?
Treatment schedules vary. Biological therapy may be given once a day or a couple of times a day. Others are given less often--sometimes once a week, or perhaps just once every month or two. Your doctor will tell you how often you will get your treatment and how long you will need to be on it.
How much will my treatment cost ?
Send We Care India your medical records, we will consult the doctor and reply with the line of treatment and treatment cost estimate.
What side effects can I expect ?
Just like other forms of cancer treatment, biological therapy sometimes causes side effects.
Side effects can include : -
- Rashes or swelling where the treatment is injected.
- Flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, bone pain, and muscle aches.
- Lowered blood pressure (blood pressure goes down).
What are cancer vaccines ?
Cancer vaccines are a form of biological therapy. While other vaccines (like ones for measles or mumps) are given before you get sick, cancer vaccines are given after you have cancer. Cancer vaccines may help your body fight the cancer and keep it from coming back.
Doctors are learning more all the time about cancer vaccines. They are now doing research about how cancer vaccines can help people diagnosed with melanoma, lymphoma, and kidney, breast, ovarian, prostate, colon, and rectal cancers.
What are the names of some biological therapy ?
There are many kinds of biological therapy. Here are the names of some common ones with ways to say them and brief statements about how they are used in cancer care.
Treatments for cancer : -
- BCG or Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (ba-SIL-us KAL-met gay-RAIN) treats bladder tumors or bladder cancer.
- IL-2 or Interleukin-2 (in-ter-LOO-kin 2) treats certain types of cancer.
- Interferon alpha (in-ter-FEER-on AL-fa) treats certain types of cancer.
- Rituxan or Rituximab (ri-TUX-i-mab) treats non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
- Herceptin (her-SEP-tin) or Trastuzumab treats breast cancer.
Treatments for controlling side effects : -
- Neupogen (NU-po-jen) or G-CSF increases white blood cell counts and helps prevent infection in people who are getting chemotherapy.
- Procrit, Epogen, or Erythropoietin (e-RITH-ro-po-i-tin) helps make red blood cells in people who have anemia.
- IL-11, Interleukin-11, Oprelvekin (oh-PREL-ve-kin), or Neumega helps make platelets (a type of blood cell).
What are the different types of biological therapies ?
There are many different types of biological therapies used in cancer treatment. Biological response modifiers (BRMs) change the way the body's defenses interact with cancer cells.
BRMs are produced in a laboratory and given to patients to : -
- boost the body's ability to fight the disease.
- direct the immune system's disease fighting powers to disease cells.
- strengthen a weakened immune system.
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