NYT – New Wonder Drug Kills All Cancers?
Last week we wrote a post describing possible outbreak scenarios, but here’s another one that should have made the list. This story originally appeared in the New York Times July 11, 2013:
Stanford researchers are on track to begin human trials of a potentially potent new weapon against cancer, and would-be participants are flooding in following the Post’s initial report on the discovery.
The progress comes just two months after the groundbreaking study by Dr. Irv Weissman, who developed an antibody that breaks down a cancer’s defense mechanisms in the body.
A protein called CD47 tells the body not to “eat” the cancer, but the antibody developed by Dr. Weissman blocks CD47 and frees up immune cells called macrophages — which can then engulf the deadly cells.
The new research shows the miraculous macrophages effectively act as intelligence gatherers for the body, pointing out cancerous cells to cancer-fighting “killer T” cells.
The T cells then “learn” to hunt down and attack the cancer, the researchers claim.
“It was completely unexpected that CD8+ T (killer T) cells would be mobilized when macrophages engulfed the cancer cells in the presence of CD47-blocking antibodies,” said MD/PhD student Diane Tseng, who works with Dr. Weissman.
The clinical implications of the process could be profound in the war on cancer.
When macrophages present “killer T” cells with a patient’s cancer, the T cells become attuned to the unique molecular markers on the cancer.
This turns them into a personalized cancer vaccine.
“Because T cells are sensitized to attack a patient’s particular cancer, the administration of CD47-blocking antibodies in a sense could act as a personalized vaccination against that cancer,” Tseng said.
The team of researchers at Stanford plan on starting a small 10-100 person phase I clinical human trial of the cancer therapy in 2014.