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New Immunotherapy Drugs Target Cancer Proteins

Illustration of cancerous cells.

 

Cancer is one of the most difficult diseases to treat due to its complex nature; genetic mutations can lead cancer cells to develop resistance to treatment, rendering it completely ineffective. Medical professionals and researchers have designed a variety of treatments: chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone treatments, stem cell transplants—and yet there is no cure. However, this doesn’t prevent researchers from trying. 

 

New studies reflect that designer antibodies can limit and prevent the growth of tumors by targeting the proteins RAS and p53, some of the biggest perpetrators in cancer; these proteins are often mutated in tumors and are resistant to various drugs (Kaiser, 2021). The RAS protein, when mutated, signals cells to grow uncontrollably. Similarly, the p53 protein, which is naturally a tumor suppressor and helps cells repair their DNA, when mutated, results in tumors and a failure to regulate cells. These two proteins are extremely difficult to target, as the RAS protein has a smooth shape and lacks binding sites, and the p53 protein requires drugs to restore its activity, rather than inhibit it. 

 

Immunologist Jon Weidanz of the University of Texas, claims that these new studies are “exciting. The therapies have the potential to work when there’s a really low number of the target on cells. That is a big deal”. The drugs being produced have the ability to “lock” onto snippets of RAS or p53 in a tumor and trigger the immune cells to attack them. However, there are still certain obstacles. In order to treat patients, “researchers would have to develop a panel of bispecific antibodies tailored to both a person’s immune proteins and the particular p53 or RAS genetic mutations in their tumor” (Kaiser, 2021). The treatment would also have to be infused for weeks. 

 

The testing was originally performed on mice, but if these same results are maintained in the clinical trials, researchers may have found a way to effectively address difficult-to-treat cancers, such as ovarian and pancreatic cancers. These new findings may open a door to further research and creative ways to treat cancer. Currently, other groups are also working on developing bispecific antibodies that target intracellular cancer proteins. 

 

References

Kaiser, J. (2021, March 1). New immunotherapy drugs target two evasive cancer-driving proteins. Science | AAAS. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2021/03/new-immunotherapy-drugs-target-two-evasive-cancer-driving-proteins 

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