Biological therapy

Naturally-occurring substances which regulate cell function are increasingly used to treat cancer. They include:

Cytokines, produced in response to a variety of stimuli, such as antigens, e.g. virus, cancer. These substances regulate cell growth and activity, and immune responses, and can be synthesised by recombinant DNA technology. They include:

• Interleukins which stimulate proliferation of T-lymphocytes and activate natural killer cells. Interleukin-2 is used in metastatic renal cell carcinoma.

15 An attenuated strain of Mycobacterium bovis used to prepare the BCG vaccine for immunisation against tuberculosis.

• Interferons. Interferon alfa is used for chronic granulocytic leukaemia, hairy cell leukaemia, renal-cell carcinoma and Kaposi's sarcoma. It may also be an effective aduvant therapy for patients at high risk of melanoma recurrence.

Haemopoietic growth factors or cell colony-stimulating factors are used to assist recovery of leukopenic patients, e.g. filgrastim (recombinant human granulocyte colony stimulating factor, G-CSF) and molgramostim (recombinant human granulocyte macrophage-colony stimulating factor, GM-CSF) (seep. 598).

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