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Biological therapies are drugs that have an anti-cancer effect but work differently from chemotherapy.
Each drug works in a different way, but they all affect the way cancer cells| grow or divide. A drug called cetuximab| (Erbitux®), which is a monoclonal antibody|, can be used for some people with cancer of the larynx.
Monoclonal antibodies are drugs that recognise and bind to specific proteins (receptors) that are found in particular cancer cells or in the bloodstream.
Some cancer cells have receptors known as epidermal growth factor receptors (EGFRs). When growth factors attach to the receptor, the cancer cell is stimulated to grow and divide. The monoclonal antibodies lock onto the EGFR and may prevent the cancer cells from growing and dividing. They may also make the cancer cells more sensitive to the effects of radiotherapy|.
Cetuximab has been recommended by NICE| (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) and the SMC (Scottish Medical Consortium) as a treatment for some people with a laryngeal cancer. It can be used with radiotherapy for people with laryngeal cancer that has spread into surrounding tissues (locally advanced cancer) who are unable to have chemotherapy|. Cetuximab is given by drip (infusion) into a vein.
Content last reviewed: 1 April 2011
Next planned review: 2013
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