Treatment to stimulate or restore the ability of the immune (defense) system to fight infection and disease. Biological therapy is thus any form of treatment that uses the body’s natural abilities that constitute the immune system to fight infection and disease or to protect the body from some of the side effects of treatment.
Biological therapy (also called immunotherapy or biotherapy) often employs substances called biological response modifiers (BRMs). The body normally produces low levels of BRMs in response to infection and disease. Large amounts of BRMs can be made in the laboratory to treat cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and other diseases.
Forms of biological therapy include monoclonal antibodies, interferon, interleukin-2 (IL-2), and several types of colony- stimulating factors (CSF, GM-CSF, G-CSF). Interleukin-2 and interferon are BRMs being tested for the treatment of advanced malignant melanoma. Interferon is a BRM now in use to treat hepatitis C.
Biologic therapy to block the action of a messenger of inflammation called tumor necrosis factor (TNF) is being used to treat conditions such as Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Etanercept (Enbrel) and infliximab (Remicade) are examples of commercially available injectable TNF- blocking treatments for patients with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis and other forms of inflammatory arthritis.
The side effects of biological therapy depend on the type of treatment. Often, these treatments cause flu-like symptoms such as chills, fever, muscle aches, weakness, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Some patients develop a rash, and some bleed or bruise easily. In addition, interleukin therapy can cause swelling. Depending on how severe these problems are, patients may need to stay in the hospital during treatment. These side effects are usually short-term and they gradually go away after treatment stops.
Biomarker: A biologic feature that can be used to measure the presence or progress of disease or the effects of treatment. For example, prostate specific antigen (PSA) is a biomarker for cancer of the prostate.
Biopsy: The removal of a sample of tissue for examination under a microscope to check for cancer cells or other abnormalities.
- Biopsy, excisional
Biopsy, excisional: A surgical procedure in which an entire abnormal area is removed for diagnostic examination under a microscope.
- Biopsy, punch
Biopsy, punch: A biopsy that is performed by using a punch, an instrument for cutting and removing a disk of tissue. For example, a punch biopsy of the skin may be done to make a diagnosis of skin cancer.
Biosafety: The application of knowledge, techniques and equipment to prevent personal, laboratory and environmental exposure to potentially infectious agents or biohazards. Biosafety defines the containment conditions under which infectious agents can be safely manipulated. The objective of containment is to confine biohazards and to reduce the potential exposure of the laboratory worker, persons outside of […]