Immunotherapy
Treatment to stimulate or restore the ability of the immune (defense) system to fight infection and disease. Biological therapy is thus any form of treatment that uses the body's natural abilities that constitute the immune system to fight infection and disease or to protect the body from some of the side effects of treatment. Immunotherapy (also called biological therapy or biotherapy) often employs substances called biological response modifiers (BRMs). The body normally produces low levels of BRMs in response to infection and disease. Large amounts of BRMs can be made in the laboratory to treat cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and other diseases. Forms of biological therapy include monoclonal antibodies, interferon, interleukin-2 (IL-2), and several types of colony-stimulating factors (CSF, GM-CSF, G-CSF). Interleukin-2 and interferon are BRMs being tested for the treatment of advanced malignant melanoma. Interferon is a BRM now in use to treat hepatitis C. Biologic therapy to block the action of instruments of inflammation called tumor necrosis factor (TNF) is being explored to treat conditions such as Crohn's disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Etanercept (ENBREL) is a commercially available injectable TNF-blocking treatment for patients with severe rheumatoid arthritis. The side effects of biological therapy depend on the type of treatment. Often, these treatments cause flu-like symptoms such as chills, fever, muscle aches, weakness, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Some patients develop a rash, and some bleed or bruise easily. In addition, interleukin therapy can cause swelling. Depending on how severe these problems are, patients may need to stay in the hospital during treatment. These side effects are usually short-term and they gradually go away after treatment stops.
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Originally, therapeutic administration of serum or immune globulin containing preformed antibodies produced by another individual; currently, i. includes nonspecific systemic stimulation, adjuvants, active specific i., and adoptive i.. New forms of i. include the use of monoclonal antibodies. SYN: biologic i..This method has been widely adopted in oncology, particularly in cases that fail to respond to other treatment. I. seeks to boost immune system function, as with the administration of interferons and interleukin-2, or to attack cancerous cells directly, as with the injection of monoclonal antibodies. Various immunotherapeutic techniques have also been used in the treatment of AIDS. In addition, a number of alternative medical practices are claimed to enhance immune function, and various over-the-counter substances have gained popularity for this supposed property.
- adoptive i. passive transfer of immunity from an immune donor through inoculation of sensitized lymphocytes, or antibodies in serum or gamma globulin. Vaccination with plasmid DNA is currently under investigation.
- biologic i. SYN: i..

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im·mu·no·ther·a·py -'ther-ə-pē n, pl -pies treatment of or prophylaxis against disease by attempting to produce active or passive immunity called also immune therapy
im·mu·no·ther·a·peu·tic -.ther-ə-'pyüt-ik adj

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n.
the prevention or treatment of disease using agents that may modify the immune response. It is a largely experimental approach, studied most widely in the treatment of leukaemias (especially hairy-cell leukaemia), melanoma, and hypernephroma. See biological response modifier.

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im·mu·no·ther·a·py (im″u-no-therґə-pe) a general term encompassing active and passive immunization, treatment with immunopotentiators and immunosuppressants, hyposensitization for allergic disorders, bone marrow transplantation, and thymus implantation.

Medical dictionary. 2011.

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