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Immune system used to target cancer


Linking a substance that prompts the production of antibodies with a special “saboteur” molecule could trigger the immune system to selectively target cancer cells, according to a study.

Scientists from Cancer Research UK’s London Research Institute immunised mice with an antigen linked to a saboteur molecule known as CpG. The linked antigen then made its way into specific cells and triggered an immune response that signals the body to produce antibodies. These could potentially destroy cancer cells while ignoring healthy ones.

The research, published in the journal Blood, shows that mice immunised with different antigen-CpG complexes had boosted antibody responses when compared with immunisation with the same antigen not linked to CpG.

The scientists concluded that the treatment works by “sneaking” CpG into the immune response hub of the cell. The new method could be used to stimulate specific immune responses against faulty proteins in tumour cells.

Lead author Dr Facundo Batista said: “This technique allows antibodies to be produced to recognise very specific altered proteins in a tumour cell while ignoring the proteins in a healthy cell.

“This discovery reveals the potential in using the immune system to hunt down and destroy cancer cells. It gives us a route to make treatment as specific as possible.”

Copyright Press Association 2009

Cancer Research UK

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