Immunotherapy, also called biologic therapy, is designed to boost the body's natural defenses to fight cancer.
Biological therapy involves the use of living organisms, substances derived from living organisms, or laboratory-produced versions of such substances to treat disease.
Some biological therapies for cancer use vaccines or bacteria to stimulate the body’s immune system to act against cancer cells. These types of biological therapy, which are sometimes referred to collectively as “immunotherapy” or “biological response modifier therapy,” do not target cancer cells directly. Other biological therapies, such as antibodies or segments of genetic material (RNA or DNA), do target cancer cells directly. Biological therapies that interfere with specific molecules involved in tumor growth and progression are also referred to as targeted therapies.
Some people with colorectal cancer that has spread receive a monoclonal antibody, a type of biological therapy. Monoclonal antibodies interfere with cancer cell growth and the spread of cancer. People receive monoclonal antibodies through a vein at the doctor's office, hospital or clinic. Some people receive chemotherapy at the same time.
During treatment, your health care team will watch for signs of problems. Some people get medicine to prevent a possible allergic reaction. The side effects depend mainly on the monoclonal antibody used. Side effects may include rash, fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, blood pressure changes, bleeding or breathing problems. Side effects usually become milder after the first treatment. Biologics hold great hope in the battle against all diseases, including cancer. They are generally better tolerated than chemical drugs because they are made from living organisms.