Academia Sinica researchers have developed a new antibody tool that has shown promising results in killing malignant tumor cells in mice and could eventually be turned into a therapeutic drug.
Wu Han-chung (吳漢忠), a research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Cellular and Organismic Biology and head of the team, told a news conference yesterday that they began with a molecule seen as an important target in identifying cancer cells.
The epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) is a protein on cell membranes that is commonly seen in epithelial tissue and malignant tumors, and Wu said that it plays a role in the attachment, movement, reproduction and differentiation of cells.
The team found that EpCAMs use growth-factor signaling to stabilize another cell-surface molecule, PD-L1, which allows tumor cells to escape recognition by the immune system, he said.
Once Wu’s team identified the importance of EpCAM in the process, it developed a neutralizing antibody tool, called EpAb2-6, to prevent EpCAM signaling and decrease the level of PD-L1 in cancer cells in a lab setting.
That led to the death of cancer cells and also activated the ability of T cells to kill cancer cells, Academia Sinica said in a statement.
“Since EpCAM is enriched in many types of cancer cells, the findings and tools from this study have the potential to broadly impact cancer diagnosis and treatment,” the statement said.
Wu said EpAb2-6 is the first antibody that can kill cancer cells directly and inhibit cancer cell metastasis.
In laboratory experiments using mice with human colorectal cancer models, it proved effective in keeping half of the sick mice alive for more than 350 days, while the control group died within 150 days, he said.
The antibody has been patented in many countries, and work is under way to develop its applications, Academia Sinica said.
Wu said that he expects preclinical tests within two years.
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