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Ultimate Antibody Found to be Effective Against Every Type Of Cancer

First Posted: Mar 31, 2013 12:15 PM EDT

Over ten years of cancer research paid off with the truly groundbreaking discovery of an "ultimate antibody" against cancer -- since it kills not just one or two, but all types of human cancer that it was tested on until now, it could result in a single treatment that would go a long way against the disease.

Scientists at the Stanford School of Medicine discovered a suspicous link between cancer cells and high levels of a protein called CD47 while studying leukemia a decade ago. Irving Weissman, the biologist behind the breakthrough, continued to study CD47 and found a CD47-blocking antibody that could cure some cases of leukemia by helping the immune system to recognize cancer cells as foreign and hostile cells that have to be destroyed.

The trick of the cancer cells is that the elevated amounts of CD47 produced by them function as a stealth cloak, effectively tricking the immune system into not destroying the cancer cells. Weissman discovered this by establishing a link between CD47 and most of the primary cancer types that affect humans, finding that cancer cells always had higher levels of CD47 than healthy cells.

"What we've shown is that CD47 isn't just important on leukemias and lymphomas," says Weissman, according to Science magazine. "It's on every single human primary tumor that we tested."

Weissman and his team used that observation to develop an antibody that blocks cancer cells' CD47, causing the body's immune system to attack the cancerous cells.

In tests on laboratory mice infected with a litany human cancers -- breast, ovarian, colon, bladder, brain, liver prostate -- the antibody was demonstrated to trigger the mice's immune systems to kill the tumorous cells.

"We showed that even after the tumor has taken hold, the antibody can either cure the tumor or slow its growth and prevent metastasis," said Weissman.

The next step is a period of clinical tests in humans, which can be initiated now thanks to a $20 million grant by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to move the findings to human safety tests.

"We have enough data already that I can say I'm confident that this will move to phase I human trials," said Weissman.

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