‘Nanobodies’ herald a new era in cancer therapy
Cancer, along with heart and vascular disease, is the major cause of death in the Western world. The first generation of anti-cancer drugs has already saved many lives, but because these medicines are non-specific they also often have severe side effects. Researchers at VIB (the Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology) are now developing ‘nanobodies’ − a new generation of drugs consisting of extremely small antibodies that target tumour cells very specifically.
The vast majority of the current medicines for treating tumours − the so-called chemotherapeutics − are seldom specific. Indeed, because a chemotherapy treatment is not only toxic to cancer cells but to the body’s normal cells as well, patients often experience severe side effects. The VIB research team under the direction of Hilde Revets and Patrick De Baetselier (Department of Molecular and Cellular Interactions, Free University of Brussels) is searching − successfully − for new, specific, effective cancer therapies.
For several years now, the leading strategy in the treatment of cancer has been based on the production of antibodies, which are protective substances produced in the organism to defend against intruding foreign bodies − protecting us against infections arising from bacteria and viruses. Antibodies can also react with tumour-specific substances that appear only on the cancer cell membrane. These ingenious antibodies seek out and bind very specifically to the cancer cells. As a result, the tumour is removed in a highly targeted, specific manner. At the moment, ten such medicines are available to patients. But even though these antibody medicines are a good step in the right direction, there is clearly room for improvement. The antibodies that are being used are large proteins that have difficulty penetrating tumours. In addition, their complex structure makes large-scale production very difficult and expensive.
In order to cope with these problems, the VIB researchers are using camel antibodies. Extremely small compared to conventional antibodies, this unique class of antibodies has been renamed ‘nanobodies’. Having all the advantages of the conventional antibodies, nanobodies also have several more important characteristics: they are small and they keep their tumour-specific character. At the same time, they are very stable, soluble proteins that are much easier and less expensive to produce than conventional antibodies. So, researchers have recently begun to evaluate nanobodies as anti-cancer medicines. The first results look promising: in experiments conducted on mice, a tumour with a certain protein on its membrane was successfully counteracted through administration of a nanobody directed against this protein.
To translate these results into a possible application for humans, VIB is collaborating with Ablynx, a company established by VIB and GIMV in 2001 with the aim of marketing the nanobody technology. Today, Ablynx has already developed nanobodies against 16 different therapeutic targets that represent a wide range of diseases in humans. Two of these nanobodies are in the pre-clinical phase and, according to plan, will be ready to be clinically tested next year.
These recent results are a new step toward the development of medicines based on nanobodies. In addition to cancer, other life-threatening diseases − such as certain inflammatory diseases, or heart and vascular diseases − are possibly eligible for a medical treatment with nanobodies.
Ann Van Gysel | alfa
The most recent press releases about innovation >>>
Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.
Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...