Monoclonal Antibodies: Therapeutic Uses


Monoclonal antibodies are protein molecules made in the laboratory from hybridoma cells (stable cell lines derived by fusing antibody‐producing cells from immunised animals with cells that confer immortality and high‐yield antibody production) or by recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) technology. They are originally derived from the immune system and have a number of unique properties that have stimulated their use in medicine, including the ability to bind specifically and with high affinity to almost any molecular structure. They can be made in various expression systems such as bacteria or mammalian cells and modified for enhanced affinity, immune function or half‐life in blood. They are made in a homogeneous and reproducible form that allows comparisons across laboratories for diagnosis as well as therapeutics. Current major therapeutic applications of monoclonal antibodies include cancer, chronic inflammatory disease, and infection and they constitute the largest and fastest growing sector of the biological pharmaceutical industry.

Key Concepts:

  • Monoclonal antibodies are proteins with high specificity towards targets.

  • Monoclonal antibodies have multiple utilities in therapy as they can recognise specific structures in targets such as bacteria, viruses, cancer cells, etc.

  • Monoclonal antibodies can be produced in large amounts in homogeneous and reproducible form for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes.

  • Monoclonal antibodies have a clear regulatory path for their approval as therapeutics.

  • Monoclonal antibodies can be derived from B‐cells from immunised animals, humans with autoimmune diseases and de novo by phage display.

  • Therapeutic monoclonal antibodies can be engineered to be more human‐like proteins, to increase their affinity, reduce their immunogenicity and increase their half‐life in the circulation, and can be conjugated with toxin for better lytic effect.

  • Monoclonal antibodies can mediate antibody‐mediated cytotoxicity by linking the target cells to cytotoxic cells through their binding sites and Fc sites.

Keywords: antibody; monoclonal; therapy; immunoconjugate; cancer; transplantation

Figure 1.

Whole antibody and fragments retaining the antigen‐binding site.

Figure 2.

(a) Murine antibody; (b) chimaeric antibody (human C domains and murine V domains); (c) humanised antibody (murine complementarity‐determining regions on a human framework) and (d) completely human antibody.



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Zola, Heddy, Thomas, Daniel, and Lopez, Angel(Sep 2013) Monoclonal Antibodies: Therapeutic Uses. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0002176.pub3]