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Biological Therapies

Biological therapies work with your body. They target and ‘switch off’ molecules within your body that help the CLL to grow in a number of different ways.

They may:

  • stop cancer cells from dividing and growing
  • seek out cancer cells and kill them
  • encourage the immune system to attack cancer cells

There are a number of different types of biological therapy, which can be known as:

  • targeted therapies
  • immunotherapy
  • biological response modifiers (BRMs)
  • biologic agents or biologics

Different types of biological therapies work in different ways. For example:

  • Targeted therapies block the chemical signals that trigger cancer cells to divide and grow.
  • Monoclonal antibodies trigger your immune system to attack cancer cells or target the cancer cells with drugs or a radioactive substance.

Targeted therapies

Targeted therapies block the chemical signals that trigger cancer cells to divide and grow. They may be used on their own or in combination with other treatments.

Examples of these drugs are ibrutinib, idelalisib and venetoclax.

Some of these medications may only be available as part of a clinical trial

Monoclonal Antibodies

Antibodies are proteins made naturally in your body that fight infection and cancer, whereas monoclonal antibodies are similar proteins made in the laboratory.

Once in your body, they stick to specific proteins on the surface of your white blood cells (lymphocytes), including the abnormal ones. Your immune system then attacks these cells and kills them. Normal lymphocytes can then replace the abnormal ones that have been destroyed.

Examples of monoclonal antibodies used for people with CLL include rituximab, alemtuzumab, ofatumumab and obinutuzumab.


The following video by MD Anderson, which is one of the leading cancer care providers in the United States, explains immuotherapy is an easy to understand way.

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