(Excerpts edited from the American Cancer Society website)

One way the immune system attacks foreign substances in the body is by making large numbers of antibodies. An antibody is a protein that sticks to a specific protein called an antigen. Antibodies circulate throughout the body until they find and attach to the antigen. Once attached, they can recruit other parts of the immune system to destroy the cells containing the antigen.

At the Integrative Cancer Treatment & Research Center, we can design antibodies that specifically target a certain antigen, such as one found on cancer cells. We can then make many copies of that antibody in the lab. These are known as monoclonal antibodies (mAbs).

Monoclonal antibodies are used to treat many diseases, including some types of cancer. To make a monoclonal antibody, researchers first have to identify the right antigen to attack. For cancer, this is not always easy, and so far mAbs have proven to be more useful against some cancers than others.

Over the past couple of decades, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved more than a dozen mAbs to treat certain cancers. As researchers have found more antigens linked to cancer, they have been able to make mAbs against more and more cancers.

Types of monoclonal antibodies

Different types of monoclonal antibodies are used in cancer treatment.

Naked monoclonal antibodies

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Conjugated monoclonal antibodies

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Bispecific monoclonal antibodies

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Possible side effects of monoclonal antibodies

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