How Jaws could lend a helping hand in the fight against cancer
By Kelly O'Connor
A breakthrough announcement made recently by a team of researches at La Trobe University in Australia, indicates that antibodies from shark blood could be the next leap forward in cancer treatment. Dr. Stewart Nuttall, one of the lead research scientists for the project, explains it this way: “We're initially interested in sharks because they play a pivotal role in immune evolution. If you look at a shark, anything below them in an invertebrate scale doesn't have an immune system. Sharks and everything above it has an immune system very much like humans. But they also have this unusual type of antibodies.”Shark antibodies are somewhat unusual because of their ability to withstand extreme temperatures, pH levels, and their tiny size; researchers are excited about this because it opens up the possibility of having a pill treatment for cancer rather than having to rely on injections.
Thus far, the major stumbling block with developing an oral treatment for cancer has been the harsh environment of the digestive system. Mick Foley, associate professor of molecular biology at La Trobe University and co-lead researcher, describes the difficulties: “The first step in being able to get an orally available antibody, which really is a bit of a holy grail in therapeutics, is to at least survive the gut. And then you have to get it taken up. And so these molecules seem to be extremely stable in the gut. And therefore there is a good chance that we have at least have got past first base.”
If the antibody survives the inhospitable environment of the digestive system, it then binds on to the surface of the target cancer cells and prevents them from growing. There have already been some promising results from the lab, where the researchers have been testing the efficacy of the shark antibody treatment on breast cancer cells. Dr. Foley describes the results: “In the wells that we've added the shark antibodies you can see that the cells are actually growing less than in the wells where we don't add a shark antibody or we add a completely irrelevant shark antibody.
So this indicates the shark antibody that we have is binding to those cancer cells and for some reason causing them to grow more slowly and perhaps even killing them.”
In order to produce such antibodies, the traditional approach has been to inject sharks with an antigen and wait for a sufficient immune response to develop. Instead, these Australian researchers take genes from the sharks, and modify them in the lab by adding random proteins to cause random mutations in a process which closely mimics how the human immune system works.
This enables the researchers to develop a “library” of antibodies capable of responding to a vast array of diseases and conditions, including malaria and rheumatoid arthritis. Dr. Foley explains: “The aim is to use these shark antibodies as a way of finding high-affinity binding agents to bind to anything we want – such as a molecule on cancer cells, or inflammatory proteins that you could then use in therapy.” Through a slow process of trial and error, the researchers expose antibodies to various target molecules (such as cancer cells), and see if there is any reaction. Dr. Foley summarizes the process: “There is maybe a little bit of gold in there, there's a lot of rubbish, and you have to via a very slow process get rid of the rubbish and make sure that the gold is left. So we do that. We sort of put the library on the target molecule and then wash everything away and then we get back what is important, then we amplify that up and then do it again. And we keep doing it until slowly we get the right ones that come out.”
The advantages (and potential payout) of successfully developing an oral-based antibody treatment for cancer are huge. For patients who must be subjected to constant injections, taking pills would be a dramatic improvement. Antibody-based treatments are also much more specific than the current methods. Although there are already other similar treatments in development, they are all in their early stages with none available for patient use as of yet. This leaves a market potentially worth billions of dollars wide open. So next time you see a shark, try to look past those vicious teeth and occasional man-eating tendencies and just appreciate the irony; one of the newest advances in cancer treatment could come from one of the ocean’s most ancient predators.
What T cells do
In ovarian cancer, the lethal cancer cells get accumulated in the ovaries. Since ovaries are important for producing eggs for reproduction, this deadly disease affects the female reproductive and sexual organs. Different types of tumor cells like stromal, germ cell and epithelial tumors cause this type of cancer.
A lot of research has gone into fighting the numerous cancer cells that affect the individuals. With all treatments and medications, scientists find it a challenge to treat this disease.
Lately, a new antibody has been found by the researchers in order to fight against the cancer cells that attack the immune system of the body. This has offered new hopes for treating ovarian cancer among women.
This antibody named AD5-10 attaches to the cancer cells weakening the resistance of the tumor cells to the body's immune system. In addition, this antibody is found to be more effective for chemotherapy.
AD5-10 antibody decreases resistance of the cells to carboplatin, a common agent used in chemotherapy. The combined effect of this antibody along with carboplatin was more effective for treating cancer patients. Reports also revealed that the antibody is found to react in this manner only when the cell killers known as lymphocytes NK are present in the tumor cells during the same time.
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