Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine are currently working on a new approach to combat a number of cancers. They estimate its effectiveness to be about 100 times higher than any other known therapy.
Member of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics and the UVA Cancer Center, assistant professor Jogender Tushir-Singh is the one spearheading the project. In a recent article, he explains his “two-headed arrow” approach in tackling the disease.
“The microenvironment is highly hypoxic, anergic and, particularly in the case of ovarian cancer, some unusually large receptors form a protective fence around tumor cells, so even if the immune cells reach there, there are many obstacles”, said Dr. Tushir-Singh.
Immunotherapy is a new form of cancer treatment, where mutated or artificial antibodies are introduced to help augment the patient’s own immune system in the fight against the disease. While results so far look very promising, and a new wave of medication based on these compounds has just been approved, this option does have some drawbacks. It is limited mostly to solid tumors and only certain forms of cancer.
Dr. Tushir-Singh devised an ingenious two-pronged solution to significantly boost the engineered antibodies. One head of the antibody “arrow” targets the “death receptors” on cancer cells, causing them to die, the other focuses on a particular receptor, FLOR1, a well-known marker of poor prognosis in ovarian cancers.
This alternative seems to be ultra-effective and significantly less toxic on the liver. Additionally, if results remain constant, this might help improve the capability of other therapies and widen the use for other cancers, like breast, prostate and other tumors.
The procedure is still in the initial stages of therapeutic development, but will hopefully move to clinical trials, as soon as necessary funding is acquired.
Ovarian cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths among women everywhere. Estimates from The American Cancer Society say that just in 2018, more than 22.000 new cases will be discovered, and the disease will claim more than 14.000 lives in the U.S. alone.