The use of monoclonal antibodies is one way the doctors use biotherapy to help you fight cancer. Monoclonal antibodies use the development of specific antibodies (protein molecules produced by the b cells as a primary immune defense), which are directed against antigens (substances that are capable of inducing a specific immune response) located on the surface of tumor cells.
We do this by first taking samples of your tumor cells and processing them to detect antigens, which are located on the surface of the cancer cell to which the antibodies will bind and eventually destroy the cancer, which expresses these antigens.
In order for this approach to work, a sufficient quantity of antigens unique to the tumor cells must be present. In addition, the tumor antigens must be different enough from the antigens elaborated to by normal cells to provoke an antibody response.
How it works
The antibodies produced by this method can be used either alone to destroy your cancer cells, or as carriers of other substances used either for treatment or diagnostic purposes. For example, chemotherapeutic agents can be attached to monoclonal antibodies to deliver high concentrations of these toxic substances directly to the tumor cells. In theory, this approach is less toxic and more effective than conventional chemotherapy because it reduces the delivery of harmful agents to normal tissues is decreased.
During the diagnostic process, monoclonal antibodies may be used to carry radioactive substances to cancer cells within your body, thus pinpointing the location of metastases that were previously undetected by other methods.
In general, monoclonal antibodies have proven useful in treatment of hematologic malignancies like leukemia and lymphoma. In addition, they are in development for use against solid tumors. All of these antibodies have multiple potential applications including nuclear imaging, surgical mapping, and direct therapy in multiple settings (alone, in conjunction with chemotherapy, for treatment of metastases, in adjuvant settings, in high dose rates, etc.).