Scientists at the University of Virginia developed an antibody approach to address immune cells intended to work against cancer cells.
Jogender Tushir-Singh, the primary researcher on the study, told us that the basis of the research was to find a solution for solid tumors: “Intensive immunotherapy for the last ten years or so, [has been] pretty successful but if you count the real success, it [has been in] mostly in leukemia [or] lymphoma and melanoma.”
He further explained, “With my own experience working with pharmaceutical companies and working in my own lab, what we have seen is that the tumor microenvironment [in solid tumors], the immune cells need to infiltrate and kill the cancer cells, [but the cancer cells are] not easily invaded [by immune cells].”
Tushir-Singh stated that beds of solid tumors in ovarian, breast, or prostate cancers, are highly hypoxic angeric tumors that have what is considered to be an impenetrable ‘fence’ impeding the antibodies in attacking the cells.
The antibody treatment developed by Singh works to attack twice. One end of the antibody works on the ‘death receptor’ and the other end works on the FOLR1 receptor, which is highly expressed in ovarian tumors.
“It’s not that the death receptor has not been tried for therapy, it’s been tried for the last decade, but the problem with the death receptor, again and again, is the antibodies brought into the clinical trials are engaging but the activation of cell death is below the threshold of [the] tumor. Our antibody [has] more components engage in FOLR1 and one in the death receptor have their own weakness but the combination gives them strength,” Tushir-Singh told us.
The treatment developed has proven to be more than 100 times more effective, based on his lab data, than antibody therapies that are in clinical trials. The reason for the increased success is that other treatments have used antibodies unable to penetrate solid tumors.
Tushir-Singh’s development is still in the process of reaching a stage for innovative new drug (IND) filing. He said he expects it to possibly become a “wonder drug” but at the very least it could improve survival rates for patients for certain cancers, such as ovarian.