[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
May 14, 1982

Monoclonal antibodies: key to a revolution in clinical medicine

JAMA. 1982;247(18):2463-2470. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03320430003001

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


Monoclonal antibodies, believed by many scientists to be the realization of Paul Ehrlich's decades-old "magic bullet" theory, are fast becoming the ammunition against a wide variety of diseases.

The secretory products of cells called "hybridomas" (hybrid-myelomas), monoclonal antibodies are the final outcome of a laboratory manipulation whereby antibody-producing B lymphocytes (B cells) are fused with myeloma cells. The resulting hybrid cell line expresses the desirable characteristics of both parents: It produces antibodies of the same single specificity as the B cell and it is "immortalized" because of its cancerous parentage.

The fusion technique would be unnecessary if nonmalignant B cells could be cloned and maintained in cell culture, but this has not been possible. Myelomas, on the other hand, synthesize antibody indefinitely, as evidenced by the quantity of Bence Jones protein in the urine of myeloma patients and in the supernates of myeloma cell cultures.

The hybridoma technique was first