Cancer cell being attacked by the immune system.

UK Study Reveals Crucial Role of Antibodies in Fight Against Cancer

July 23, 2009 10:00 AM
by Anita Gutierrez-Folch
A new study has revealed that antibodies have greater cancer-fighting abilities than previously thought, and may lead to the development of new and hopefully more effective varieties of cancer treatments.

Antibodies Prove Their Ability to Fight Alone

A team of scientists from the universities of Southampton and Manchester in the U.K. has discovered a new way of targeting cancer cells, using antibodies not only to “mobilise the immune system to attack cancer cells and destroy them,” but also as weapons to independently destroy the harmful cells, the BBC reports.

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, will hopefully lead to the development of new treatments for a wide variety of cancers, and give doctors alternatives to traditional treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation.

According to the BBC, it was previously thought that the role of antibodies was merely to “bind to cancer cells, and flag them up as a target for destruction by the disease-fighting cells of the immune system.” This study, however, proved that antibodies act not only as enablers, but are also capable of destroying cancer cells directly, “trigger[ing] small enzyme-containing sacs called lysosomes inside the cell to swell and burst, releasing their contents, which are highly toxic to the cell.”

"Although it's at an early stage, this research provides valuable clues as to how monoclonal antibodies kill cancer cells, and could lead to more effective treatments for cancer in the future,” Dr. Lesley Walker of Cancer Research U.K. told the BBC.

Background: Gilla Kaplan’s inspired prediction

Gilla Kaplan, a professor and prominent member of the Public Health Research Institute Center at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, has spent many years studying the immune system and it’s relationship to the development and cure of different types of cancers and other lethal diseases.

In a 2006 article published in UMDNJ Magazine, Kaplan predicted that “[m]aybe what will be most striking in the future about our ability to cope with disease, and protect the body itself, is how capable we are going to become at directing our immune systems. We won’t just be chopping out cancer. We’ll be harnessing the body’s immune response to fight it.”

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