“We have made what we think is a big advancement … and we’re going to push as hard as we can and as fast we can,” said Dr. Irving Weissman, pathology professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine and director of Stanford’s Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine.
The researchers focused on blocking a protein, which they refer to as the “don’t eat me” molecule because it sits on tumor cells signaling the body’s immune system not to attack it. By introducing the antibody, the scientists were able to block the protective signal, otherwise known as CD47, allowing the immune system to go after the cancer cells.
Researchers say CD47 is the only target found so far on the surface of all cancer cells. That means the antibody offers hope as a weapon against a broad range of cancers – breast, ovarian, colon, bladder, brain, liver and prostate.
The research involved taking cells from Stanford cancer patients, planting them into matching locations in the bodies of mice, and then administering the antibody. The antibody completely destroyed the tumor in some cases but also prevented the cancer from spreading.
“The most common result was the tumor growth was inhibited – not fully cured – but in a few weeks dramatically decreased,” said Stephen Willingham, postdoctoral researcher and co-lead author of the study.
The study, published online this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has drawn praise from other researchers.
“The data is indeed exciting, and the effects are significant,” said Tyler Jacks, director of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who was not involved in the study.
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