New research indicates that there could be a single drug that could shrink or cure all types of cancer, whether it’s breast, ovary, colon, bladder, brain, or liver. The treatment uses an antibody that blocks the ‘do not eat’ signal that’s usually displayed on tumor cells and coaxes the immune system to destroy cancer cells.
Leukemia cells produce higher levels of the CD47 protein than healthy cells. It’s a marker that will block the immune system from destroying healthy blood cells. Cancers take advantage of this by using it to trick the immune system into ignoring them.
CD47 is found on every human primary tumor that the team has tested. The researchers transplanted human tumors into mice. Once the rodents were treated with anti-CD47, the tumors shrank and did not spread.
They showed that even after the tumor had taken hold, the antibody could cure or slow the growth of the tumor. The findings were published in the journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
More research is needed to see whether this antibody will work on humans the same way. The researchers also need to find out how the CD47 antibodies would mesh with existing treatments. It’s possible that it wouldn’t work well in patients using chemotherapy, since it causes normal cells to produce more CD47.
The research team has received a grant of $20 million from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to move their drug into human trials.
Reference: “The CD47-signal regulatory protein alpha (SIRPa) interaction is a therapeutic target for human solid tumors” by Stephen B. Willingham, Jens-Peter Volkmer, Andrew J. Gentles, +40 , Debashis Sahoo, Piero Dalerba, Siddhartha S. Mitra, Jian Wang, Humberto Contreras-Trujillo, Robin Martin, Justin D. Cohen, Patricia Lovelace, Ferenc A. Scheeren, Mark P. Chao, Kipp Weiskopf, Chad Tang, Anne Kathrin Volkmer, Tejaswitha J. Naik, Theresa A. Storm, Adriane R. Mosley, Badreddin Edris, Seraina M. Schmid, Chris K. Sun, Mei-Sze Chua, Oihana Murillo, Pradeep Rajendran, Adriel C. Cha, Robert K. Chin, Dongkyoon Kim, Maddalena Adorno, Tal Raveh, Diane Tseng, Siddhartha Jaiswal, Per Øyvind Enger, Gary K. Steinberg, Gordon Li, Samuel K. So, Ravindra Majeti, Griffith R. Harsh, Matt van de Rijn, Nelson N. H. Teng, John B. Sunwoo, Ash A. Alizadeh, Michael F. Clarke and Irving L. Weissman, 26 March 2012, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.