One of the most effective ways to treat cancer is to harness the power of the body’s own immune system. This method is called immunotherapy. While immunotherapy comes in many different forms, one type that’s gaining traction is called targeted monoclonal immunotherapy for cancer. Monoclonal antibodies are being used to treat patients of Regional Cancer Care Associates right now, as it’s been approved for several different types of cancer.
How Monoclonal Antibodies Work
Antibodies are a natural part of the body’s immune system. Their job is to bind themselves to an antigen on abnormal cells, signaling to the immune system that these cells need to be destroyed. Once researchers figure out which antigen on a cancer cell needs to be attacked, they can then develop a monoclonal antibody. Monoclonal antibodies are produced in a laboratory and then administered through a patient’s vein. Think of them as substitute antibodies to help the immune system fight back against cancer.
Monoclonal antibodies can function in different ways depending on what the type of cancer necessitates. They can be used to accomplish the following:
- Flag cancerous cells for attack
- Trigger cell-membrane destruction
- Block cell growth
- Prevent blood vessel growth
- Attack cancer cells directly
- Trigger immune system checkpoints
One example of a monoclonal antibody is called alemtuzumab (Campath), which treats chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). The antibody works by binding to the CD52 antigen on lymphocytes. This binding then attracts the body’s immune cells to come and destroy those cancerous lymphocytes.
Cancers That Benefit the Most from Monoclonal Antibodies
Because monoclonal antibodies are so versatile, they can fight several cancers. If you have any of the following types of cancer, this treatment may be an option that’s available to you:
- Brain cancer
- Breast cancer
- Colorectal cancer
- Head and neck cancers
- Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Lung cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Stomach cancer
Monoclonal antibodies are still being developed for other types of cancers, as well, which some patients may have access to via clinical trials at RCCA.
Side Effects of Monoclonal Antibodies
Like most cancer treatments, monoclonal antibodies can cause some side effects. Every patient reacts differently to the treatment, but side effects are typically mild. The most common side effect is a skin reaction at the needle site, such as pain, swelling, redness, and itchiness. Flu-like symptoms are also common, such as chills, fever, and fatigue. Additional side effects may include:
- Muscle aches and pains
- Mouth and skin sores
- Changes in blood pressure
Explore Cancer Treatment at RCCA
Regional Cancer Care Associates is dedicated to providing the highest level of care possible. That’s why patients can count on RCCA for the latest and most effective treatment options at all of our Connecticut, Maryland, and New Jersey locations. If you’re interested in learning more about targeted monoclonal immunotherapy for cancer, be sure to speak to one of our cancer specialists. And if monoclonal antibodies aren’t right for you, rest assured that many other treatment options are available, from chemotherapy and radiation to surgery and cryotherapy. Contact us today to set up an appointment.