Antibody extends breast cancer survival in mice
Researchers at the University at Buffalo in the US have made a 'monoclonal' antibody that can significantly extend the survival of mice with human breast tumours by blocking the tumour's spread to the lungs.
Antibodies are proteins normally produced by white blood cells. Their role is to recognise foreign matter in the body and bind to it, flagging it up to the rest of the immune system.
Scientists have been able to exploit this function by making antibodies called 'monoclonal' antibodies that can be used to help treat diseases. For example, breast cancer drug Herceptin is a monoclonal antibody.
The study, published in the November 2006 issue of the journal Neoplasia, found that mice with breast tumours that received the antibody, dubbed 'JAA-F11', had an average survival time of 72 days, compared to 57 days for the animals that did not receive the treatment. The antibody sticks to a particular sugar molecule, known as the Thomsen-Friedenreich antigen (TF-Ag).
TF-Ag is found on the surface of many cancer cells, and is thought to help them spread around the body. JAA-F11 did not kill the cancer cells directly, but blocked stages of cancer-cell growth that allow the cells to spread and stick to tissues outside the breast - notably lung tissue. "This antibody binds with a carbohydrate on the tumor cell surface that is involved in adhesion of the cell during the metastatic process," explained Kate Rittenhouse-Olson, associate professor of clinical and laboratory sciences in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. She also pointed out that attaching other cancer drugs to the antibody might allow them to kill the cancer cells directly.