Biologic Therapy (Immunotherapy)
Sutter Cancer Center Treatments & Services
Biologic therapy (also called immunotherapy or immunological therapy) is a rapidly advancing form of treatment that prompts the patient's own immune system to fight cancer or encourages the body to create more of a specific blood component (white blood cells, red blood cells or platelets) to treat an illness or counteract side effects of another cancer treatment.
The body's immune system is designed to fight off intrusion by bacteria, viruses, parasites and other outside agents. However, because cancer comes about through changes in the body's own cells that cause them to multiply out of control, the immune system doesn't always recognize cancer cells as intruders. Chemotherapy treats cancer in much the same way an antibiotic treats an infection-by taking over the immune system's job and attacking the bacteria. Biologic therapy boosts or restores the immune system or helps the immune system identify a specific form of cancer as an intruder, which it will then attack.
Several biologic treatments that boost, direct or restore the body's ability to fight specific cancers have already been approved by the FDA and are available to Sutter patients. For instance, interferon can be used in the adjuvant treatment of early melanoma after resection, or interleukin-2 (IL-2) can be used in the treatment of metastatic kidney cancer and melanoma.
Other biologic treatments are moving through the clinical trial process to achieve FDA approval. Sutter Cancer Center doctors actively participate in a number of clinical trials to bring the most promising new treatments to their patients. Patients interested in volunteering to be research participants should talk with their doctors. Additional information is available in the Research Studies and Clinical Trials (cancer specific) sections of this site.
More information about biologic therapy is available under specific cancers listed in the cancer topic of our Health Information Library. Additional information is also available from the National Cancer Institute www.cancer.gov and the American Cancer Society www.cancer.org.