What is Immunotherapy?
The immune system is the body’s defense against disease as it recognizes and destroys any foreign material that could cause harm. In some instances, the immune system can recognize cancer cells as abnormal and kill them; in others, the cancer evades the immune system wreaking havoc in our bodies.
In recent years, some of the most promising advances in cancer research involve immunotherapies – treatments that use the immune system to fight diseases like cancer. By finding new ways to help the immune system recognize cancer cells and strengthen its response to destroy them, researchers are looking for long-lasting solutions to cure cancer.
NFCR Research Highlights
Dr. Wayne Marasco is a world-renowned antibody engineering expert who works on infectious diseases and cancer immunotherapies. For cancer, as well as HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, one possible treatment involves the use of human monoclonal antibodies (Mabs) – which are proteins that are produced to bind to only one substance. For cancer treatments, Mabs bind only to cancer cells and produce immunological responses against the cancer cells. There is great promise with Mabs because their tumor-fighting effects would be less harmful to normal cells than that of traditional cancer treatments. In an effort to greatly expand the use of Mabs in the treatment of cancer, Dr. Marasco and NFCR founded the NFCR Center for Therapeutic Antibody Engineering.
Dr. Marasco has had great success developing Mabs that attach to an important protein – carbonic anhydrase IX (CAIX) – that is highly expressed in renal cell carcinoma, the most common type of kidney cancer. Once attached, the CAIX antibody can halt abnormal cancer growth. Most recently, his team at the NFCR Center developed a combination immunotherapy treatment that holds promise for treating metastatic kidney cancer more effectively. The immunotherapy they have engineered includes not only the CAIX antibody that detects and binds to CAIX growth-promoting proteins on cancerous kidney cells, but also unblocks T cells to enable more rigorous attacks against cancer. Moreover, this double treatment approach could be adapted to treat advanced colon, breast, brain and other difficult-to-treat solid cancers using different antibodies.
Dr. Paul Fisher’s laboratory focuses on understanding the molecular and biochemical basis of cancer development and progression. They have created a new therapeutic approach to cancer therapy, which Dr. Fisher calls a Cancer Terminator Virus.