So, for newcomers, a quick recap of the back story: I had a mastectomy, and when I woke up from surgery, discovered my left arm was paralysed. This had been caused by damage to the brachial plexus nerve that controls the arm. I had to have further surgery to free the injured nerves.
It took about nine months before I was finally able to lift my left arm, and control it. It was a dark time, and I remember being in a state of numbness most of the time. I still look back on that period with a sense of incredulity, and amazement that I got through it.
In those nine months, to give my arm the best chance of healing, my surgeon and I took the decision not to have any active treatment in case they damaged the nerves. I was also hoping that the treatments I’d had at Hallwang Private Oncology Clinic in Germany would help.
Updated 25 January 2014 with US FDA approval guidelines
Life at the clinic was on fast forward all the time.
Barely two days after my arrival at the clinic I was put on my first treatment, Removab, a tri-functional antibody.
Here’s my layman understanding of what it is all about:
Antibody (from wikipedia)
What is an antibody?
An antibody is a large Y-shaped protein. It is used by the immune system to identify and neutralize foreign organisms like bacteria and viruses.
An antibody recognises what organism to attach itself to and attack, by matching up to a specially-shaped receptor on the organism. This receptor is called an antigen.
An antigen is a molecule capable of stimulating an immune response, and is often produced by cancer cells or viruses.
Think of the tip of the Y of the antibody as a lock, and the antigen as the only key that fits that particular lock.
photo credit: thecolour.com, with edits
Herceptin is an example of a monoclonal antibody that targets the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) protein on the surface of tumour cells.
What is a tri-functional antibody?