Different types of biotherapy for cancer include antibodies and growth factors, as well as interferons, interleukins and vaccines. Each type of biotherapy treatment plays a role in helping the immune system defend the body against cancer. Antibodies are used to attack specific antigens on tumor cells, while growth factors are used to stimulate and foster the growth of blood cells. Interferons help destroy foreign cells and interleukins activate and stimulate the growth of white blood cells. Vaccines are manufactured and administered after the development of cancer, and they help the immune system recognize and destroy cancer cells.
Biotherapy itself is a type of medical treatment also known as biological therapy or immunotherapy. This type of treatment is different from normal types of treatments because it does not destroy the cause of an illness but rather, focuses on helping the immune system fight the illness. In addition, biotherapy also helps manage side effects that might occur as a result of other types of treatments. Essentially, biotherapy for cancer relies on elements of the immune system to help treat the disease. For example, white blood cells are an important part of the immune system that fights diseases and, as such, helping to stimulate the growth of white blood cells through biotherapy enables the immune system to further fight illnesses.
In general, some types of biotherapy treatments are specialized. That is, a specific treatment method might rely on some aspect of the cancer itself. For example, samples of cancer cells might help in developing antibodies or vaccines. This can be because the immune system does not recognize the foreign cells that it should be destroying and, therefore, does not attack them. Of course, this poses a problem, but through some forms of biotherapy, antibodies are better able to locate antigens and vaccines can be developed to recognize cancer cells.
Depending on the specific condition, biotherapy for cancer can be used alone or it can accompany other forms of cancer treatment. For example, interleukins might accompany chemotherapy, as chemotherapy destroys both cancer cells and healthy cells. The lack of healthy cells means the body is less able to protect itself and, in addition, lack of healthy cells can also be a contributing factor to side effects. Also, while there are different types of biotherapy for cancer, some forms only target certain types of cancer. For example, some forms of biotherapy will only treat bladder cancer while others will only treat breast cancer or ovarian cancer.