Monoclonal Antibodies: The Immune System’s Ally

With the ability to aid in the treatment of several types of cancers, monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) have become a trusted component of many patients’ treatment plans at Regional Cancer Care Associates. Here’s a look at what mAbs are, how they work and the benefits they provide in the fight against cancer.

Patient undergoing treatment for cancer

Monoclonal Antibodies Defined

mAbs are a specific type of molecule produced by scientists that are used to treat certain cancers, as well as other diseases. They are designed to target the antigen found in cancer cells and aid in delivering medications or radioactive substances to cancer cells. mAbs may be used in conjunction with other cancer treatments, enabling the immune system to use its natural defenses to fight off cancer. Currently, mAbs are used to treat:

  • Melanoma
  • Lung cancer
  • Brain cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Head and neck cancers
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia

How They Work

Acting as antibodies in the immune system, mAbs have multiple functions in the fight against cancer. First and foremost, they help the immune system identify cancer cells, and they support the self-destruction of cancer cells and prevent the new cell growth that tumors depend on for growth and sustenance. They also transport radiation and chemotherapy more directly to the cancer to keep the healthy, normal cells surrounding the cancer cells safe during treatment.

In addition, some mAbs connect an immune system cell to a cancerous cell, prompting the immune system to attack the cancer. Other mAbs enable the immune system to attack the membrane (outer wall) of cancer cells, and prevent new blood vessels from forming and supporting tumor growth.

Types of Monoclonal Antibodies

Several types of mAbs are available for the treatment of cancers. The most common type is naked mAbs, which act alone, do not involve the addition of medications or radioactive substances and provide many benefits to the immune system, such as:

  • Improved ability to destroy cancer cells
  • Increased response to targeting checkpoints
  • Preventing the growth or spreading of cancer cells

Conjugated mAbs, also known as loaded, labeled or tagged antibodies, do not work on their own. Rather, they are combined with drugs or radioactive materials to attack and destroy cancer cells. There are two types of conjugated mAbs, which include:

  • Radioactive antibodies, which deliver microscopic radioactive molecules to cancer cells
  • Chemolabeled antibodies, which utilize chemotherapy or other medications

Lastly, bispecific mAbs are engineered from varying components of two different mAbs. This variation allows these mAbs to attach to both cancer cells and immune cells, triggering an immune system response to attack the cancer.

Fighting Cancer at RCCA

With more than a dozen mAbs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and more being researched, this method of cancer treatment aligns with our vision at Regional Cancer Care Associates. We strive to provide only the latest, science-based breakthroughs in cancer care at each of our 30 locations across New Jersey, Connecticut and Maryland, helping our patients to achieve the best possible outcomes. For more information, contact us today.