Yale cancer group refines an antibody approach to targeting cancer cells

Yale's James Hansen

Building on insights that antibodies generated by lupus can also kill cancer cells, a group of investigators led by James Hansen, assistant professor of therapeutic radiology at Yale School of Medicine, says that they have found a way to engineer these antibodies into a more efficient weapon.

The alterations included changing the antibodies so they could more easily penetrate cancer cells and bind to DNA, enabling "them to selectively kill tumors with defects in DNA repair."

The Yale group, which includes investigators from the Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, says that they've now set out to translate this work into a new cancer drug clinical program that could well be relevant to a variety of cancer types. Their work was reviewed at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2015 Philadelphia.

Lupus is a chronic disease in which an errant immune system attacks organs tissues and joints. If the researchers are right, they will be able to turn a problem into a solution.

"We think we can grow an army of antibody assassins that exploit cancer cells' inherent weaknesses," Hansen said. "Autoantibodies are problematic in lupus, but some good will come from their existence if we can turn them against tumors and take a bite out of cancer."  

- here's the release