Altered Lupus Antibodies May Become Cancer Killers

Re-engineering antibodies allows them to selectively kill tumors.

Re-engineering antibodies allows them to selectively kill tumors.

A chronic inflammatory disease that afflicts the immune system may hold the key to killing cancer, a recent study indicates.

During a presentation at the annual American Association for Cancer Research meeting, researchers reported a new method to alter lupus antibodies to turn them into a potential cancer killer. Lupus, a chronic inflammatory disease, involves an attack by the immune system against its own organs, tissues, or joints. Prior research revealed that naturally occurring lupus antibodies have the ability to kill cancer.

The current study showed that a lupus antibody can be re-engineered in the laboratory setting to become a new non-toxic method that treats many types of cancer without causing lupus symptoms.

The researchers found that altered antibodies can penetrate cancer cells and then bind to DNA, which allows the antibodies to selectively kill tumors with defects in DNA repair. The researchers hope to turn these findings into a clinically-relevant treatment for many types of cancer by exploiting the weaknesses of cancer cells.

"We think we can grow an army of antibody assassins that exploit cancer cells' inherent weaknesses," lead researcher James E. Hansen, MD, said in a press release. "Autoantibodies are problematic in lupus, but some good will come from their existence if we can turn them against tumors and take a bite out of cancer.”