Biologic and Biosimilar Drugs

Is there a difference? Somewhat.

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Biological drugs, or biologics, are a class of drugs that are produced using a microorganism, plant cell, or animal cell. They differ from “small molecule” drugs like aspirin because they are generally larger and more complex.

Biologics have been used in cancer treatment since the 1980s. Immunotherapy is one type. It helps the body’s own immune system fight cancer cells. Others can slow tumor growth or help the body recover from other cancer treatments.

A biologic is produced by growing copies of specially engineered living cells. In a controlled environment, the cells develop proteins. This can take several weeks. The proteins are extracted and purified to produce the final drug, which is highly complex. A small-molecule drug like aspirin can consist of as few as 21 atoms. Biologics can consist of over 25,000 atoms.

Because a biologic uses living cells, there are slight variations in each batch. The manufacturing company uses significant resources to maintain consistency. The entire process is regulated and approved by the FDA.

A biosimilar drug is developed to be highly similar to the FDA-approved biologic and must have no clinically meaningful differences. Patients must have the same physical response to the biosimilar as they would to the biologic. However, the biosimilar may have differences in the clinically inactive components of the drug.

Biosimilars are not generic drugs. The active ingredient in a small-molecule drug can be recreated exactly. Biosimilar drugs are more complex and therefore must meet the “highly similar” standard.

Biologics in cancer treatment can be used to flag cancer cells for destruction by the immune system. In many cases, the drugs kill fewer healthy cells than other treatments or are less toxic. Other biologics can reduce side effects. One class known as colony-stimulating factors (CSFs) encourage bone marrow to grow and divide.

Biologics and biosimilars represent some of the most important treatments for cancer patients.

PET Scan

My apologies for not posting last week. My laptop was at Geek Squad to clean out any stuff left by a scammer.

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This morning I had a PET scan. I’d had one four years ago and forgot the routine.

After accessing my port, a nuclear technician took me to a back room to give me the glucose laced with a radioactive isotope. I had to lie down for an hour while it processed through my system. I had a private room with a bed.

BTW, to prepare, I couldn’t exercise for 24 hours or eat four hours prior to the scan.

The tech then had me lie on the PET bed and ran me through the machine, once to get my torso and another to scan my legs. The scan would have taken 40 minutes, but she had a problem with either the computer or the machine. I needed to be re-scanned and the total time was 60 minutes on that PET bed.

The PET detects cancer by how the sugar is absorbed by cells. Cancer cells uptake sugar at a higher rate than healthy cells, and the radioactive isotope makes the area light up when the machine scans. It’s a more accurate detection system than a CT scan.

The side benefit as far as my husband was concerned was that I was radioactive for a while. He couldn’t get me home fast enough with the first PET. He set his Geiger counter to the lowest setting and pointed it at me. I pegged it at three feet!

And with no cancer detected, I won’t have to see the doc for three months! Yay!



Sugar and Cancer – Take 2

So, my last blog post showed that sugar does not cause cancer. Since then, I found another article that claims sugar causes cancer to grow. What should we believe?Cakes

The first blog post was based on information posted 12/3/17 from This one draws from and was published 3/9/14. Both have a medical advisory board.

Beat Cancer states that sugar encourages cancer growth, since cancer cells uptake sugar at 10-12 times the rate of healthy cells. PET (positron emission tomography) scans use radioactively labeled glucose to detect tumors, since cancer cells uptake sugar at a higher rate.

Otto Warburg, whose research was referenced in my first blog post, found in 1931 that cancer cells increased glycolysis, a process whereby glucose is used as a fuel by cancer. He also discovered that cancers thrive in an acidic environment. Sugar is highly acidic.

Sugar can impact how much insulin is released by the pancreas, which can have an effect on some kinds of cancer.

Sugar also contributes to obesity, which can affect cancer.

Does sugar cause cancer? My money is on the fact that sugar can ultimately lead to type II diabetes which does affect tumors. I also am suspicious that the sugar-causes-cancer argument is based on research more than 80 years old.

I don’t think we should get into a blame loop that we’ve eaten too much sugar and it’s our fault we have cancer. I’ve been in that loop and it doesn’t change the situation.

Cutting sugar is a healthy habit, so avoiding it makes sense.

So take your pick. My contention is that nobody really knows.