Biological Therapy

About the Treatment

Biological therapy is a newer cancer treatment that is more targeted than standard chemotherapy. It is usually delivered to a specific part of the body’s growth pathway that a cancer has hijacked. It involves the use of newer drugs to stop some of the communication within a cancer cell to control the spread. Several biological therapy treatments for cancer use inoculations or injections of bacteria to stimulate the body’s immune system to fight against the cancer cells.

Types of biological therapy pathways

Antibodies target a growth factor or growth factor receptor to prevent it from functioning and encouraging the cancer to grow. Antibodies are administered through injections or infusions into the body. Examples of antibodies used in cancer care include Trastuzumab (Herceptin) which is used to treat breast and upper gastrointestinal cancers, whilst Cetuximab (Erbitux) is used to treat cancers of the colon, head and neck.

Enzyme inhibitors

Enzyme inhibitors typically stop certain communications within cells, or can stop a certain growth factor (e.g. testosterone) from being produced. They are usually administered as tablets. Examples of enzyme inhibitors include Pazopanib which is used in certain types of kidney cancers, and Abiraterone being used to treat prostate cancers.

Like other treatments, these biological agents still have side effects, however, these are usually, in most cases, less severe than standard chemotherapy drugs. Some biological drugs are given with or in sequence with chemotherapy, others are given on their own. It must be noted though that biological therapies are not suitable for all cancers.

There are a number of different types of cancer treatments that can be used on their own or in combination with another. How and when different treatments are used depends completely on the type of cancer we are treating and the intent of the treatment.

If you want to know more about the types of pathways or treatment and if you would like to discuss them further and consider your options, please ask your specialist.

''We are so grateful to Dr Saunders and all the nurses and radiographers at the Cancer Unit at The Park Hospital who looked after us so well when the cancer was diagnosed and then treated by radiotherapy and chemotherapy over a 6 month period.''


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