In a healthy biological system, the ability to closely regulate cellular growth, maturation, and programmed cell death is what maintains proper homeostasis.
Cancer is a broad term that describes a group of diseases involving new growth of previously normal cells which have become altered by a thus far undefined process, and are subsequently unresponsive to the regulatory controls of growth and maturation or programmed cell death (apoptosis). Because of this unregulated growth, cancer cells that make up the tumor are capable of continued unabated cell division. In some cases, the cancer begins to shed cells which will migrate throughout the body.
The process of cell shedding, migration, and subsequent new growth is termed metastasis. An aggressive malignant cancer eventually interrupts normal biological processes, leading to a decline in organ function and, if left untreated, multiple organ failure.The use of antibody therapeutics directed against malignant tumors has the potential to:
- Direct cancer cell-specific toxins to the tumor site
- Block the ability of the cancer cell to receive signals to grow
- Inhibit the ability of the cancer cell to migrate
- Induce the cancer cell to self-destruct
The video below is an example of "programmed cell death" or "apoptosis". In this example, cancer cells are programmed to die as a result of antibody treatment: