An antibody developed from the human immune system has been used to preferentially attack cancer cells. The paper documenting these findings has been published in Cell Reports.
A team of researchers from Duke Health have followed the anti-cancer antibody. When they discovered it, they developed it in their lab to test it in cells lines and in animal models, marking the first time that an antibody coming from humans has been turned into a cancer-fighting weapon. This is in high contrast with other immunotherapy techniques, according to senior author Edward F. Patz, from Duke’s Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology.
The scientists spotted the antibody after they delved deeper into the reasons that leave some lung cancer patients protected from the disease. These people never had the tumours progress to advanced phases as opposed to other patients who would develop benign forms of the tumour. The difference is the antibody in question.
The workings of the antibody were thus deciphered. It apparently acts on a particular region of the defense system of cancer cells. It launches its attacks on the latter through various mechanisms. Its main target is the protein called complement factor H (CHF) which prevents the activation of a critical immune response by inhibiting complement C3b from degradating cell membrane which is meant to cause cell death. Patz and his team wanted to use this immune response for a cancer therapy.
The team then had to develop antibodies that would identify the specific part of CFH that is targeted by those antibodies made by the cancer patients. They, therefore, used white blood cells from this group of patients, and cloned the antibody genes to make the specific antibodies.
Mature antibodies were thus produced, and used to attack cancer cells as they would normally do in the bodies of the protected cancer patients. They were tested in cancer cell lines (lung, gastric, and breast cancers) in laboratory, and in tumours developed in living mice. The results show the death of tumour cells without yielding any side effect; it is to be noted that other cells (non-tumour ones) were not killed off.
If this was not good enough, wait to hear more. The antibodies seemed to trigger another adaptive immune response such that lymphocytes were brought to damaged cells, thereby probably building the case for a more effective attack.