What's in a (drug) name?

The names of the immunotherapy monoclonal antibodies seem like examples of outright butchery of the English language: rituximab, tositumomab, ibritumomab and so on. Can you imagine a less-catchy set of names for drugs than these? They look backwards or like they belong in the Jumble.

But as with all drugs, there is method to the madness. Each name has four parts:

Drug name = prefix + infix(1) + infix(2) + suffix.

Prefix: Meaningless aspect. Just a name.
Infix(1): This part denotes the drug's target in the body.
Infix(2): This part denotes the source of the antibody. Monoclonal antibodies are developed in the lab from sources ranging from mice to primates to more than one source (chimeric).
Suffix: Denotes the fact that it is a monoclonal antibody (mab). All monoclonal antibodies end this way.


Tositumomab (Bexxar) = Tosi- + tu(m) + o + mab
Ibritumomab (Zevalin) = Ibri + tu(m) + o + mab
Rituximab (Rituxan) = Ri + tu + xi + mab

In Infix(1), the letters "tu" mean 'miscellaneous tumor'. In Infix(2), the letter "o" means 'mouse', the letters 'xi' mean chimeric.

So, rituximab for example is a chimeric monoclonal antibody that targets miscelleneous tumors.

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