Monoclonal antibodies MAbs

05:37 EDT 22nd August 2019 | BioPortfolio

Monoclonal antibodies recognise and attach to specific proteins produced by cells. 

Types of monoclonal antibodies used to treat cancer cells:

  • Block cell dividing dividing signals
  • Transport cancer drugs or radiation to cancer cells
  • Trigger the immune system to attack cancer cells

Block cancer cell dividing signals

Cancer cells often make large amounts of growth factor receptors which sit on the cell surface and send signals to help the cell survive and divide. Specific MABs are used to stop growth factor receptors from working properly  by blocking the signal or the receptor itself, resulting in the cancer cells no longer receives the signals it needs to multiply. 

  • Bevacizumab (Avastin) for advanced bowel cancer, breast cancer and some other cancers
  • Cetuximab (Erbitux) for advanced bowel cancer or in trials for other cancers
  • Panitumumab (Vectibix) for advanced bowel cancer
  • Pertuzumab (Perjeta) for breast cancer
  • Trastuzumab (Herceptin) for breast cancer and stomach cancer

Transport cancer drugs or radiation

Some monoclonal antibodies have drugs or radiation attached to them. The MAB finds the cancer cells and delivers the drug or radiation directly to them. These are called conjugated MABs.

MABs that have a radioactive substance attached include

  • Ibritumomab (Zevalin) for non Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) and some other cancers
  • Tositumomab (Bexxar) for non Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL)

Some MABs that have a drug attached are still in clinical trials. They include

  • ADEPT – for bowel cancer
  • Gemtuzumab ozogamicin (Mylotarg) – for acute leukaemia

Trigger the immune system

Some monoclonal antibodies trigger the immune system to attack and kill cancer cells. Although cancer cells are abnormal, they develop from normal cells so they can be difficult for the immune system to spot. Some monoclonal antibodies simply attach themselves to cancer cells, making them easier for the cells of the immune system to find them. These include

  • Alemtuzumab (MabCampath) for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL)
  • Rituximab (Mabthera) for non Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) and some types of leukaemia

Other types of monoclonal antibodies

Other types of monoclonal antibodies effect the immune system more directly, for example attaching themeselves to immune cells, such as T-cells, to encourage them to attack cancer cells.

  • Ipilimumab for advanced melanoma skin cancer works by stimulating T-cells in the body’s immune system. T-cells help to fight cancer and disease. CTLA-4 is a molecule found on the surface of T-cells which switches them off. Ipilimumab blocks CTLA-4 so that the T-cells stay switched on and active and can attack the cancer cells.
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