What are Therapeutic Antibodies?
Antibodies are blood proteins that chemically combine with substances in the body, such as bacteria, viruses and foreign substances in the blood.
They are highly adaptive structures and, specifically, monoclonal antibodies (Mabs) – that bind to only one substance – have emerged as a major target of research for biological drugs for various diseases. For cancer treatments, Mabs bind only to cancer cells and produce immunological responses against the cancer cells.
Fueled by advances in molecular biology and genetic engineering, efforts are underway to engineer new generations of Mabs with tumor-fighting effects that are less harmful to normal cells (as compared to traditional cancer treatments).
NFCR Research Highlights
Dr. Daniel Von Hoff has developed an antibody pipeline to create strategic therapies of Mabs. The first Mabs in development are those that bind to a key molecular ‘target’ found on fibrotic cells that surround pancreatic and other types of cancer. Targets bound with antibody can no longer signal to tumor cells to metastasize from the primary tumor. With funds from the NFCR AIM HI Translational Research Initiative, promising Mabs are in final pre-clinical stages and may soon enter clinical trials to treat colorectal cancer patients who need a new effective treatment to save their lives. The strategic Mabs to stop growth and metastasis in pancreatic and lung cancer will be a future application.
Dr. Wayne Marasco was supported by NFCR for 25 years and is a world-renowned antibody engineering expert who works on infectious diseases and cancer immunotherapies. He developed a human antibody library which allows him to uncover new Mabs. Dr. Marasco has developed 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 is using a type of immunotherapy, (CAR) T cell therapy, which engineers a patient’s immune system T cells to express new targeting receptors – liken to antennas on cells – that can seek out and kill cancer. The CAR T cells express antibodies to CAIX to bind to kidney cancer cells to halt abnormal growth. The CAR T cells also express other Mabs that will stimulate a patient’s immune system to activate more T cells within the body for a more rigorous attach cancer. Moreover, this double treatment approach could be adapted to treat advanced colon, breast, brain and other difficult-to-treat solid cancers.