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October 6, 2009

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New antibody in cancer fight

BRITISH scientists said yesterday that they had developed potential new antibody treatments that could "super charge" the body's immune system to help it fight some types of cancer.

The scientists said the treatment had shown significantly increased survival from neuroblastoma, a type of childhood cancer, in laboratory tests, and they hoped it could one day be used to treat children with the disease.

The researchers developed two monoclonal antibodies called anti-41BB and anti-CD40, and investigated a third called anti-CTLA4, all of which bind to molecules in the immune system.

They found 40 to 60 percent of tumors treated with the antibodies were destroyed in laboratory tests.

With more aggressive tumors, the antibodies appeared not to work so well, but when the researchers paired one of them with a peptide, or protein fragment, they killed about 40 to 60 percent of these too.

The scientists said these antibodies recognized the response the immune system produces and stimulate it, making it more effective in attacking cancer cells.

"It is hoped that these antibodies can be used to boost or 'super charge' the body's immune system to help it fight cancer," the researchers wrote in a report.

Juliet Gray, a lecturer in oncology at the University of Southampton who led the study, stressed the work was at a very early stage and more research was needed.

"Although this work is still at a pre-clinical stage, we hope it has enabled us to identify a way that we can provide effective immunotherapy treatment against neuroblastoma," she said.

Some 60 percent of children with neuroblastoma can be successfully treated with chemotherapy, Gray said. "But immunotherapy could become another vital new treatment option."


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