Biological therapy is the use of living organisms, substances derived from living organisms, or laboratory-produced versions of such substances to treat disease. A subclass of biological therapy are “biologics,” which refer to proteins produced by recombinant engineering in cell lines. These proteins are used in the treatment of disease or to support a patient through therapy.
Cancer biologics are mainly used in three ways:
- Immunotherapy, where the drugs induce the body’s immune system to act against cancer cells;
- Targeted therapy, where the drugs interfere with the ability of the tumor to grow and progress; and
- Supportive therapy, where the drugs are used to ameliorate the effects of the treatment regimen.
The first cancer biologics were approved for clinical use in the 1990s, and since then dozens have entered into clinical use, including monoclonal antibodies, chemokines and cytokines, enzymes, and other proteins.