What is biological therapy?
Biological therapy involves the use of living organisms, substances derived from living organisms, or laboratory-produced versions of such substances to treat disease. Some biological therapies for cancer stimulate the body’s immune system to act against cancer cells. These types of biological therapy, which are sometimes referred to collectively as “immunotherapy,” do not target cancer cells directly. Other biological therapies, such as antibodies, do target cancer cells directly. Biological therapies that interfere with specific molecules involved in tumor growth and progression are also referred to as targeted therapies. (For more information, see Targeted Cancer Therapies.)
For patients with cancer, biological therapies may be used to treat the cancer itself or the side effects of other cancer treatments. Although many forms of biological therapy have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), others remain experimental and are available to cancer patients principally through participation in clinical trials (research studies involving people).