Antibodies in oncology

N Biotechnol. 2011 Sep;28(5):518-29. doi: 10.1016/j.nbt.2011.03.021. Epub 2011 Apr 5.


Monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) have become one of the largest classes of new therapeutic agents approved for use in oncology, and have revolutionised the treatment of many human malignancies. Clinically useful mAbs can function through several different mechanisms, including inhibition of tumour-related signalling, induction of apoptosis, inhibition of angiogenesis, enhancing host immune response against cancer and targeted delivery of payloads (such as toxins, cytotoxic agents or radioisotopes) to the tumour site. The increasing knowledge of key molecules and cellular pathways involved in tumour induction and progression has led to a rise in the proportion of therapeutic mAbs entering clinical trials. These mAbs consist of various conventional or recombinant, murine, humanised, chimeric or fully human and fusion constructs. In this review, we provide an overview of mAbs approved for use in clinical oncology and those currently in clinical development. We also discuss the mechanisms of action of anti-cancer mAbs, as well as the antigen targets recognised by these antibodies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / immunology
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use*
  • Antibodies, Neoplasm / immunology
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / immunology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Techniques
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / immunology


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Neoplasm
  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Antineoplastic Agents