This page discusses the use of biologic therapy for the treatment of cervical cancer. For a thorough review of biologic therapy for cancer treatment, please see the biologic therapy treatment monograph .

Biologic Therapy

Biologic therapy, also called immunotherapy, is a treatment that uses drugs to improve the way your body’s immune system fights disease. Your immune system is your body’s natural defense against disease. A healthy and strong immune system can detect the difference between healthy cells and cancer cells. Biological therapy attempts to repair, stimulate, or enhance the immune system so that it can fight the cancer more effectively. These therapies can be used to fight cancer or to lessen the side effects that may be caused by some cancer treatments.

Interferon is the most common form of biologic therapy used to treat cervical cancer. Interferons interfere with the division of cancer cells and can slow their growth. There are several types of interferons, and they are normally produced in the body. For their use in biologic therapy, interferons are made in the laboratory. Other possible biological therapies include interleukin and monoclonal antibodies.

Most biological therapies are given by injection into a vein. They are frequently given in combination with chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Effectiveness of Biologic Therapy for Cervical Cancer

Interferons are still being studied in women with cervical cancer, but have shown effectiveness in suppressing tumor growth. Response rates from 80% to 90% for cervical intraepithelial neoplasia have been reported. However, to date immunotherapies have not been found to be effective in treating invasive cancer of the cervix.

Side Effects

Possible side effects of biologic therapy include the following:

  • Red, sore area where injection was given
  • Flu-like symptoms – fever, chills, gastrointestinal upset
  • Fatigue
  • Allergic reactions – cough, wheezing, skin rash
  • Confusion, disorientation, depression

Special Consideration

These treatments can cause extreme fatigue. It is important to get as much rest as possible when your body is fighting cancer. Talk with your doctor about how best you can minimize side effects and the discomforts that come with treatment.

When to Contact Your Health Care Provider

Contact your health care provider if you experience any of the following:

  • Extreme, debilitating fatigue
  • Severe flu-like symptoms
  • Severe nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Signs of infection

For more information on biologic therapy, including how to manage the side effects, please see the biologic therapy treatment monograph.