Passive Immunotherapy: use of monoclonal antibodies

Passive immunotherapy strategies do not rely on the human body's immune system to fight diseases as they don't require an active respons of the immune system to foreign body cells. Passive immunotherapy includes the administration of immune system components, such as antibodies, to target foreign body cells like cancer cells.

Monoclonal antibodies (mAb's) still represent the largest class of commercialized cancer immunotherapies and are directed to a single target on a cancer cell. This type of therapy is therefore considered targeted passive immunotherapy.

Directly go to different monoclonal antibody cancer therapies >>

How Monoclonal Antibody Therapy works

Antibodies are a key component of the adaptive immune response. Once produced by the immune system, they can bind to a target antigen or a receptor site on cell surfaces, including those on cancer cells. After binding to the cancer cell, the immune response is stimulated to recruit immune cells that can lyse the cancer cells.

Passive immunotherapies in the form of antibody treatment usually involve the following steps:

  1. Monoclonal antibody production in the lab 
    • Immunization of animals by antigen injection

    • Antibody-forming cells are isolated from the spleen

    • Formation of hybridomas of antibody-forming cells with cultured tumor cells

    • Hybridoma's are screened for antibody production and the best is selected

    • Hybridomas are cloned and expanded to produce mAB

  2. Antibody therapy given to the patient
  3. The antibody will work as a binder between the cancer cell and the immune cell
  4. The immune cell will excrete granzymes and other proteins that will kill the cancer cell
How monoclonal antibody immunotherapies work How monoclonal antibody immunotherapies work

Monoclonal antibody cancer therapies

Although passive immunotherapy strategies all are based on the use of antibodies or other immune system components, there are different types of mAb immunotherapy strategies to treat cancer.

Antibody-Dependent Cell-Mediated Cytotoxicity (ADCC) Bispecific Antibodies Mediated Cytotoxicity