Monoclonal antibodies

What are antibodies?

One of the ways we fight infection is by making antibodies. They help our immune system to recognise an infection if we are exposed to it again and to enable our body to deal with it quickly. Antibodies can be made in a laboratory and used to treat cancer.

What are monoclonal antibodies?

Monoclonal antibodies are sometimes called targeted therapies because they work by targeting specific proteins on the surface of the cells. They destroy the cancer by either:

  • triggering the body’s immune system to attack the cancer cell and can cause the cell to kill itself or
  • attaching a cancer drug or a radioactive substance to the antibody which delivers them directly to the cancer cell because they target those specific cells (targeted therapy).

We have specific information about 90Y-ibritumomab tiuxetan (Zevalin ®), Alemtuzumab (MabCampath®), Bevacizumab (Avastin®), Cetuximab (Erbitux®), Gemtuzumab (Mylotarg®), Iodine-131 tositumomab (Bexxar ®), Ipilimumab (Yervoy®), Panitumumab (Vectibix ®), Rituximab (Mabthera®), Trastuzumab (Herceptin®).

Back to Targeted (biological) therapies explained

Angiogenesis inhibitors

Angiogenesis inhibitors prevent cancers from making new blood vessels. Without new blood vessels, the cancer cannot grow.

Cancer growth inhibitors

Cancer growth inhibitors block certain chemical signals within cells, which slows down or stops the growth of the cancer.


Cancer vaccines help the immune system recognise cancer cells and destroy them.