Researchers Use Stem Cells to Produce Cancer-targeting Antibodies

Researchers Use Stem Cells to Produce Cancer-targeting Antibodies
In a new study, researchers have used stem cell proteins to create an antibody that can specifically recognize and be taken up by some types of breast and ovarian cancers. The study, "Conservation of oncofetal antigens on human embryonic stem cells enables discovery of monoclonal antibodies against cancer," was published in Scientific Reports. Antibodies are made by the immune system to fight infections. They work because any given  antibody recognizes one molecular target, called an antigen, with potency and specificity. This quality makes antibodies useful to researchers and clinicians who want to target specific molecules in cells or in patients. The investigators were hoping to create antibodies that could be used to target cancer proteins, but instead of creating antibodies with cancer cells, they created antibodies with stem cells. Cancer cells and stem cells behave quite similarly, and many antigens are shared between them. These are called oncofetal antigens — literally antigens from early on in development or cancer — and could be useful as cancer targets. The researchers injected the stem cells in mice and looked for antibodies that targeted these cells. They then tested these on cancer cells and found that one, dubbed A19, could bind and be taken up by a number of cancer cell lines. Further investigation revealed that A19 specifically binds to the HER2 protein, which is a well-documented molecular target for some kinds of breast and ovarian cancers. Herceptin (trastuzumab, by Genentech), which is u
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