Complement in antibody-based tumor therapy

Crit Rev Immunol. 2014;34(3):199-214. doi: 10.1615/critrevimmunol.2014009761.


Monoclonal antibodies constitute a major treatment option for many tumor patients. Due to their specific recognition sites in their constant Fc regions, antibodies are able to trigger antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC) or complement-dependent cytotoxicity (CDC). While the contribution of ADCC to clinical efficacy has been strengthened by observations that patients with favorable Fcγ receptor polymorphisms display better response rates to therapeutic antibodies, the contribution of CDC to their clinical efficacy remains controversial. In the background of high expression of complement-regulatory proteins on tumor cells as well as of the fact that some therapeutic antibodies lack the capacity to trigger efficient CDC, strategies have been implemented to improve either the capacity of antibodies to initiate the complement cascade or to interfere with tumor cells' resistance mechanisms. Although both strategies have demonstrated therapeutic benefit in vitro and in murine models, CDC-enhanced antibodies-to the best of our knowledge-have not been clinically tested, and evidence for the potential of CDC-optimizing approaches has yet to be generated in humans. Hence, the potency of complement activation and its impact on the clinical efficacy of therapeutic antibodies still remains to be elucidated in clinical trials encompassing novel complement-enhancing molecules.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / pharmacology
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Complement Activation / drug effects
  • Complement Activation / immunology
  • Complement System Proteins / immunology*
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic / drug effects
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / immunology*


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Complement System Proteins