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Stanford University School of Medicine

Single antibody shrinks or eliminates human tumors in mice at Stanford

I write a lot about cancer in my job. It's always interesting. But the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences today will publish research from the laboratory of stem cell biologist Irving Weissman, MD, that I can't stop thinking about. From our release:

Human tumors transplanted into laboratory mice disappeared or shrank when scientists treated the animals with a single antibody, according to a new study from the Stanford University School of Medicine. The antibody works by masking a protein flag on cancer cells that protects them from macrophages and other cells in the immune system. The scientists achieved the findings with human breast, ovarian, colon, bladder, brain, liver and prostate cancer samples.

It is the first antibody treatment shown to be broadly effective against a variety of human solid tumors, and the dramatic response - including some overt cures in the laboratory animals - has the investigators eager to begin phase-1 and -2 human clinical trials within the next two years.

"Blocking this 'don't-eat-me' signal inhibits the growth in mice of nearly every human cancer we tested, with minimal toxicity," said professor of pathology Irving Weissman, MD, who also directs Stanford's Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine and the Ludwig Center for Cancer Stem Cell Research at Stanford. "This shows conclusively that this protein, CD47, is a legitimate and promising target for human cancer therapy."

Many researchers will point out (rightly) that experiments in mice have to be evaluated cautiously. But this research is unique in the variety of solid cancers that responded to the antibody. It's also fascinating that human patients whose tumors express high levels of the CD47 molecule have a worse prognosis than those whose cancers express lower levels. I could go on and on about how excited I am about this research, but instead I'll let you hear from the first authors of the paper, Jens-Peter Volkmer, MD, and Stephen Willingham, PhD.

Previously: Cancer stem cell researchers are feeling the need for speed
Video courtesy of the Stanford Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine

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