Biological Therapy and Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy (also called biological therapy or biotherapy) often employs substances called biological response modifiers (BRMs). The body normally produces low levels of BRMs in response to infection and disease. Large amounts of BRMs can be made in the laboratory to treat cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and other diseases.

Forms of biological therapy include monoclonal antibodies, interferon, interleukin-2 (IL-2), and several types of colony-stimulating factors (CSF, GM-CSF, G-CSF). Interleukin-2 and interferon are BRMs being tested for the treatment of advanced malignant melanoma. Interferon is a BRM now in use to treat hepatitis C.

Biological therapy or immunotherapy helps your immune system fight cancer or may be used to control the side effects of cancer treatment. Chemotherapy attacks the cancer cells directly and biological therapy helps your body to fight cancer. Biological therapy is effective for certain cancer types as it may stop or slow the growth of cancer cells. Biological therapy has been used to treat bladder cancer, breast cancer, melanoma, lymphoma and renal cell cancer. Different drugs may be used to help make red and white blood cells that help with the side effects of cancer treatment. Biological therapy may be used alone or in combination with other types of treatment. Your doctor or nurse will help you learn what to expect with treatment.