Monoclonal Antibodies Definition

Antibodies produced in a laboratory using RECOMBINANT DNA technology. MAbs derive from cloned mouse SPLEEN cells (hence the designation “monoclonal”) containing the desired ANTIBODY fused with human myeloma cells. Mouse cells have proteins very similar to the proteins of human cells. Human myeloma cells, because they are cancer cells, have the ability to replicate without limitation. The myeloma cells arise from B-cell lymphocytes, which produce antibodies.

Monoclonal Antibodies Function

When scientists fuse the two cells together, they achieve cells (called hybridomas) that combine the desired ANTIGEN sensitization with the ability to endlessly replicate antibody-producing cells. After fusion, scientists can attach radioactive molecules for diagnostic imaging or to deliver fatal radiation to specific cells (called conjugated MAbs). Doctors then can inject MAbs into people to stimulate the IMMUNE RESPONSE as a mechanism for fighting INFLAMMATION (such as in RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS) and certain types of cancer or to specifically target certain cells for death without affecting other cells. Indiscriminate cell death is a significant limitation of current CHEMOTHERAPY.

A key limitation of therapeutic MAbs is that the body recognizes them as nonself and configures antibodies against them. MAbs are highly effective for the first treatment, then may be less effective or initiate a HYPERSENSITIVITY REACTION in subsequent treatment efforts.

List of Therapeutic Monoclonal Antibodies (MABS)

abciximab (ReoPro)alemtuzumab (MAb Campath)
bevacizumab (Avastin)cetuximab (Erbitux)
daclizumab (Zenapax)infliximab (Remicade)
lym-1 (Oncolym)muromonab-CD3 (OKT3)
omalizumab (Xolair)rituximab (Rituxan)
tositumomab (Bexxar)trastuzumab (Herceptin)

For further discussion of MAbs within the context of the structures and functions of the immune system, please see the overview section “The Immune System and Allergies.”


Monoclonal antibodies (MAbs)
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