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Researchers made a breakthrough in cancer treatment

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Researchers made a breakthrough in cancer treatment

Researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Eureka Therapeutics, have made a breakthrough that could revolutionize the fight against cancer. It seems that they have developed a monoclonal antibody (ESK1) that targets a protein which is associated with several types of cancers and which is found inside the cancer cells.

The new monoclonal antibody is different from the others used before in medicine because it can interfere with proteins found inside the cell, not on the surface of cancer cells. ESK1, the recently discovered humanized monoclonal antibody,  targets  a protein called WT1, an oncogenic protein that is associated with several cancers such as leukemia but also different types of breast cancer, colorectal cancer, ovarian cancer or myeloma. WT1 is critical in cancer development because it is one of the proteins that promote tumor proliferation. What is remarkable is that this protein (WT1) is found in only few healthy cells. In other words, treatment would be less harmful and with only few side effects . It is known that many drugs used in chemotherapy have plenty of adverse reactions and are generally directed towards rapidly dividing cells, such as gastrointestinal cells, hair follicle cells, etc.. Therefore perhaps the best known side effects of oncology treatment are nausea, vomiting (due to damage to the digestive system) and hair loss.

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ESK1 mimicks the function of an important part of the immune system, that of T cell receptor. T lymphocytes have a receptor that recognizes  proteins that are found inside the cell. Once they fulfill their functions,  these proteins are fragmented and then HLA molecules, which are also part of the immune system, carry portions of these proteins (peptides) on the cell surface. When detecting abnormal peptides, T cells destroy these cells.

Cheng Liu, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer of Eureka Therapeutics, wanted to mention that ESK1 is a paradigm change in the human monoclonal antibody therapeutics. “This research suggests that human antibody therapy is no longer limited to targeting proteins present outside cancer cells, but can now target proteins within the cancer cell itself,” he added.

David A. Scheinberg, MD, PhD, Chair of the Sloan-Kettering Institute’s Molecular Pharmacology and Chemistry Program and an inventor of the antibody, said this is a new approach to attack WT1, which is an important target in cancer treatment . He added that there has not been a  way to create small molecules that inhibit the function of WT1. However research has shown that now  you can use monoclonal antibodies that recognizes proteins associated with cancer cells and destroy them.