Redesigned Bi-Specific antibodies may offer new hope against secondary breast cancer.
We are delighted to announce that we are now funding a 4-year project at Oxford University to make new breast cancer treatments that stick to cancerous breast cells that have spread throughout the body; a currently incurable condition termed metastases, or secondary spread.
Dr. Weston Struwe of the Glycoprotein Therapeutics Laboratory will make and test novel antibodies for secondary spread that avoid damaging healthy cells whilst targeting the cancerous ones, no matter where they are in the body or how small the tumour.
Dr. Struwe explains “We hope to show that specific targeting of metastatic cells can be achieved by engineering antibodies to bind 2 different targets on a cancerous cell instead of only one, and demonstrate that these newly designed antibodies can be stably produced”.
The new antibodies will ‘see’ 2 different molecules, both present only on the surface of cancerous cells which scientists hope will increase the likelihood of them sticking to the surface of secondary breast cancer cells, even if the target molecules are present at a low concentration on the cell surface. This will also reduce toxicity of the treatment as healthy cells that may display one of the target molecules, are ignored. As a treatment for secondary breast cancer, these antibodies may prevent growth or survival signals being received by the breast cancer cells, or mark them for destruction by the immune system.
Current antibody treatments, such as the HER2-binding antibody Herceptin, stick to cancerous cells that have lots of the target molecule present on the cell surface but miss cancerous cells that display fewer molecules. Antibody treatments may also stick to healthy cells with normal levels of the target molecule, such as heart cells that display HER2 which is involved in normal cell growth for repair of heart tissue and requires heart monitoring during Herceptin treatment.
If this project proves successful, these antibodies will be assessed in future clinical trials and could provide a potent new treatment method for secondary breast cancer that may be applicable to other metastatic cancer types too.
One in five breast cancer cases result in fatal metastases, when breast cancer cells break away from the original tumour site and establish new tumours in bone, lung, liver or brain. Because they look a lot like healthy cells, cancerous cells are not recognized as dangerous by your body, and antibodies made naturally by your immune system do not stick to them.