In 1997, rituximab, the first monoclonal antibody indicated for oncological use, was launched for non-Hodgkin lymphoma (also used in rheumatoid arthritis and leukemia, among others). This marked the start of the era of so-called targeted therapies for cancer treatment.
There are currently 27 monoclonal antibodies approved for use in various types of cancer, which is a major breakthrough in the treatment of this disease. You can also browse https://www.bosterbio.com/featured-products to know more about monoclonal antibodies. But what makes monoclonal antibodies so special?
1. Differences from chemotherapy
Cancer is characterized by the continuous and uncontrolled reproduction of certain cells which eventually spread throughout the body and metastasize. Therefore, chemotherapy consists of various active ingredients that prevent cells from dividing.
Image Source: Google
However, chemotherapy drugs cannot distinguish between healthy cells and cancer cells, so normal cells are also attacked, which causes serious side effects4. Thus, it is a non-specific attack on cancer cells.
Monoclonal antibodies are a type of targeted therapy characterized by their specificity5 to bind to specific molecules produced by the tumor or its environment, causing cancer cell death through various mechanisms. Due to its specificity, the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy can be avoided.
2. Mechanism of action
Monoclonal antibodies are effective against cancer because they work through one of the following mechanisms (or a combination thereof):
They can bind to certain molecules released by tumors. These molecules are signals that activate certain biological mechanisms that are necessary for tumors to grow and spread. The binding of antibodies inhibits their growth.
Monoclonal antibodies can also be used to modulate immune responses; in this case, they bind to immune system cells and stimulate them instead of binding to tumors6. This is how ipilimumab or nivolumab works. Monoclonal antibodies are a great way to treat cancer because of their specificity.