Finally, researchers have discovered a remarkable treatment for cancer tumors. It is a drug that has destroyed every type of cancer tumor it came in contact with. Let’s learn about it in detail.
How Does The Drug Work?
The drug works by inhibiting a protein called CD47. This protein gives a “do not eat” signal to the body’s immune system. CD47 is secreted by healthy blood cells. However, it is also formed in excessive amounts by cancer cells. This misleads the body’s immune system so it does not destroy the harmful cancerous cells.
What’s The Research?
Initially, biologist Irving Weissman of the Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, California found that leukemia cells secreted more of the protein known as CD47 than healthy cells did. He and his group of scientists investigated further and discovered that CD47 is also secreted by healthy cells. Thus, the body’s immune system is unable to identify them as harmful and does not kill them as they travel through the body. This is as an advantage to the cancerous cells and they are allowed to grow in the body. Scientists later found that CD47 is not only found in leukemia cells, but also in all types of cancerous tumors. This led them to research the efficacy of their findings on killing the tumor cells.
After studying the function of CD47 in detail, the researchers created an antibody that inhibits CD47 present in cancerous cells so that the body’s immune system recognizes and attacks the cancerous cells. This antibody was used for treating mice with transplanted human breast, colon, ovary, liver, brain and prostate tumors. When mice with human tumors were given doses of anti-CD47, the immune system detected the harmful tumor cells and killed them. Researchers have found that a single drug is capable of treating ovary, bladder, breast, brain, liver and prostate tumors that have been transplanted into mice.
Weissman says that he found that even after a tumor is established in the body, the antibody can either treat the tumor or slow down its development to prevent metastasis. Although highly effective, one side effect of the treatment was that the healthy cells also came under attack for a short time by the immune system of the mice. However, this effect is minor compared to the destruction of harmful cancerous cells.
Weissman and his group of researchers have received a grant of $20 million to transfer the research from mice to human safety tests. Weissman is confident regarding this research and he says that they have enough data to carry out the first human trials.
However, according to cancer researcher Tyler Jacks of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, the new research looks promising, but requires more trials on humans to find if the results are similar to those seen in mice. He says that the microenvironment of a real tumor is different from that of a tumor, which is transplanted. And, real tumors may have more immune-suppressing effects.
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