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Re-engineering lupus into a cancer killer

April 21, 2015
by Vicky Agnew

Researchers from the Yale Cancer Center and the Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System have devised a way to re-engineer lupus antibodies to turn them into potential cancer killers. Findings from recent research were presented April 21 at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2015 Philadelphia.

Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when the immune system attacks its own organs, tissues, or joints. The Yale team previously found that naturally occurring lupus antibodies can kill cancer, and new work now shows that a lupus antibody can be altered in the lab to potentially create a new and non-toxic method of treating many cancers without causing lupus symptoms.

The team, led by Dr. James E. Hansen, assistant professor of therapeutic radiology at Yale School of Medicine, has shown that altering the antibodies to help them penetrate cancer cells and bind to DNA enables them to selectively kill tumors with defects in DNA repair. The goal is to translate this discovery into a clinically-relevant therapy for many types of cancer.

Overall, the team is optimistic that they can ultimately grow an army of antibody assassins that can exploit some cancer cells’ inherent weaknesses.

“We think we can grow an army of antibody assassins that exploit cancer cells’ inherent weaknesses,” Hansen said. “Autoantibodies are problematic in lupus, but some good will come from their existence if we can turn them against tumors and take a bite out of cancer,” Hansen said.

Additional authors on project include Philip W. Noble, Jaymin M. Patel, Melissa R. Young from Yale School of Medicine and Grace Chan and Richard H. Weisbart from the Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System.

Research was supported by a Yale Center for Clinical Investigation Scholar Award.

Submitted by Renee Gaudette on April 21, 2015