Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A cure for most cancers?

It has been known for a while that cancer cells produce a higher level of a protein called CD47.  That same protein is found in healthy cells, though not in as high levels.  CD47 is a marker that tells our bodies' immune system not to destroy them.  The cancer cells use this marker to avoid being destroyed by the immune system.  In fact, how much of a higher level one has of CD47 is a fairly good predictor of mortality: since cancer cells have CD47 at higher levels than healthy cells, the higher the level of that protein, the more likely the patient will die.  So this bright biologist at Stanford developed an antibody that blocked CD47.  He first gave it to mice with  blood cancers.  Lo and behold, their immune system recognized the cancer cells as invaders and a number of the mice were cured when their own immune systems killed the cancer cells.  But the story gets better.  A number of human cancer tissues from many types of cancers were transplanted into mice.  The control rodents largely died. Those given the CD47 blocking antibody had startling results.  Tumors almost universally shrank in weeks.  And 5 out of five mice with implanted human breast cancer ended up being cancer free.  On to human trials where anything could happen.  However, one has to look at research like this and wonder if the illusive cure for cancer is near.


Dave H said...

Cancer might as well be called "Legion" because it's actually a number of different maladies with common characteristics. I'm skeptical that one treatment that can cure all cancers is possible. But even if it cures only a few types, it'll be a huge leap forward.

2cents said...

Apparently the higher level of CD47 protein is a fairly universal trait among cancer cells. If the preliminary results hold up even to a much lesser degree in humans it will still show promise. The antibody reduces tumor size and reduces masticizing.

John Anderson said...

illusive - deceptive; illusory
elusive - difficult to find, catch, or achieve

Otherwise, yeah, great news.

Dave H said...

That right there makes it worth pursuing. I hope they can develop a treatment that targets the cells with high CD47 levels and not ones with normal levels.

I just wish news agencies wouldn't use the words "cure" and "cancer" in the same title.

2cents said...

Sorry on the "illusive" editing. Hard enough to do this damned thing on an iPhone and now you expect me to pay attention to what I am writing, too?