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What biological therapies are

Biological therapy is a type of treatment for some types of cancer. Find out more about what it is and when you might have it.

Biological therapies are treatments that act on processes in cells. They may:

  • stop cancer cells from dividing and growing
  • seek out cancer cells and kill them
  • encourage the immune system to attack cancer cells

There are many different types of biological therapy. They may be called:

  • biological response modifiers (BRMs)
  • biologic agents or biologics
  • targeted therapies
  • immunotherapy

Why you might have biological therapy

Whether you have biological therapy depends on:

  • the type of cancer you have
  • how far your cancer has spread (the stage)
  • other cancer treatments you’ve had

Many types of biological therapies for cancer are still experimental. They are not suitable for treating all types of cancers. But biological therapy could be the best treatment for some cancers.

Types of biological therapy

There are many different types of biological therapy and it can be confusing. There isn't really a simple way of grouping them that is easy to follow.

Immunotherapy is one type of biological therapy. It uses substances produced by the body’s immune system. These substances help the body to fight infection and disease. There are a number of different types. It depends on the type of cancer you have as to whether you might have it as part of your treatment.

Some biological therapy drugs are grouped according to the effect they have. For example, some drugs block cancer cell growth. Other groups include a particular type of drug such as monoclonal antibodies. These target specific proteins on cancer cells.

Some drugs belong to more than one group. For example, a drug that works by blocking cancer cell growth may also be a monoclonal antibody.

Ask your doctor about targeted drugs. They can explain: 

  • whether this treatment is suitable for you
  • what the aim of treatment would be 
  • what it would involve and the side effects

Information and help

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About Cancer generously supported by Dangoor Education since 2010.