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Monoclonal Antibodies for Cancer

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Monoclonal Antibodies for Cancer


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These medicines are given by infusion into a vein (intravenous, or IV).

How It Works

Monoclonal antibodies are substances that attach only to certain proteins in the body (like a key in a lock). They contain antibodies made in a lab. These antibodies are used to destroy cancer cells.

Monoclonal antibodies may not work for some people. So before you have this treatment, your tumor tissue will be checked for certain gene changes (mutations).

Why It Is Used

Monoclonal antibodies are used to treat many types of cancer. These medicines may be used alone but most often are used in combination with other chemotherapy medicines.

How Well It Works

Monoclonal antibodies work well in treating cancer. They may also be given to lower the risk of cancer recurring, or to treat cancer that has recurred or metastasized.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

Call your doctor right away if you have:

Use alemtuzumab with caution if you have heart disease. The drug may make existing heart problems worse.

Bevacizumab and other medicines that block vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) may cause high blood pressure. Your doctor will check and closely watch your blood pressure, especially when you first start taking bevacizumab.

Bevacizumab can cause stroke, heart failure, and blood clots. It can cause other problems, including bleeding in the lungs when the medicine is used with chemotherapy for lung cancer. It may also cause holes in the colon (perforation) that have to be repaired with surgery. So people who have had or are planning to have colon surgery may not be able to use this medicine.

Cetuximab may cause serious side effects while it is being given. So people who get this medicine will be watched closely while they are getting the medicine and for at least 1 hour afterward.

Panitumumab may cause serious lung or skin problems. Your doctor will check and closely watch your calcium and magnesium levels during and after taking this medicine. Women who take this medicine may not be able to get pregnant.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

Some of these medicines may also cause:

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

These medicines can interact with many other drugs. Be sure your doctor knows what prescription and over-the-counter drugs you are taking.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

Do not use this medicine if you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant. If you need to use this medicine, talk to your doctor about how you can prevent pregnancy.


Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) to help you understand this medication.

Créditos para Monoclonal Antibodies for Cancer

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Douglas A. Stewart, MD - Medical Oncology
Last Revised August 14, 2013

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