This hits very close to home for me, actually in my home, as I’m sure is the same for many who read this, given that cancer is the leading cause of
death in developed countries. My grandma died from cancer, my mom has survived breast cancer and my oldest sister was diagnosed with breast cancer
this May, had surgery and is currently going through chemotherapy. They caught it early.
With that said, I hope this is the breakthrough cancer patients, survivors, family members and future victims can rejoice at. I'm sure you haven't
heard about this... so let’s get to it.
The short version, a group has discovered a way to successfully (in clinical trials) kill cancer cells using a patient's own immune defense system by
engineering T-cells (which naturally seek out and destroy invading pathogens, but are not that good at it, hence all the cancer deaths) to
aggressively seek out, bind to and destroy cancer cells.
The long version:
- article date of Sunday, July 14, 2013
A single-storey workshop on a nondescript business park in Oxfordshire is not the sort of place where you would expect scientific revolutions to
For the past 20 years, the former academics who set up Immunocore have worked hard on realising their dream of developing a totally new approach to
cancer treatment, and finally it looks as if their endeavours are beginning to pay off. In the past three weeks, the company has signed contracts with
two of the biggest players in the pharmaceuticals industry which could lead to hundreds of millions of pounds flowing into the firm's unique research
on cancer immunotherapy – using the body's own immune system to fight tumour cells.
The two contracts are with Genentech and GlaxoSmithKline.
It is no understatement to say that cancer immunotherapy, or immuno-oncology as it is technically called, represents a sea change in terms of
cancer treatment. Cancer in the past has been largely treated by slicing (surgery), poisoning (chemotherapy) or burning (radiotherapy). All are
burdened with the inherent problem of how to spare healthy tissue from irreparable damage while ensuring that every cancer cell is killed, deactivated
Many organisations have tried to develop anti-cancer treatments based on antibodies, with limited success, Dr Jakobsen said. Part of the problem is
that antibodies are not really designed to recognise cells. What Immunocore has done is to build a therapy around the second arm of the immune system,
known as cellular immunity, where T-cells seek out and destroy invading pathogens.
"There are a lot of companies working with antibodies but we are virtually the only company in the world that has managed to work with T-cells. It
has taken 20 years and from that point we are unique," Dr Jakobsen said.
Immunocore has found a way of designing small protein molecules, which it calls ImmTACs, that effectively act as double-ended glue. At one end they
stick to cancer cells, strongly and very specifically, leaving healthy cells untouched. At the other end they stick to T-cells.
The technology is based on the "T-cell receptor", the protein that sticks out of the surface of the T-cell and binds to its enemy target. Immunocore's
ImmTACs are effectively independent T-cell receptors that are "bispecific", meaning they bind strongly to cancer cells at one end, and T-cells at the
other – so introducing cancer cells to their nemesis.
The key to the success of the technique is being able to distinguish between a cancer cell and a normal, healthy cell. Immunocore's drug does this by
recognising small proteins or peptides that stick out from the surface membrane of cancer cells.
The first phase clinical trial of the company's therapy, carried out on a small number of patients in Britain and the United States with advanced
melanoma, has shown that people can tolerate the drug reasonably well and preliminary results suggest there are "early signs of anti-tumour activity",
the company said.
But Dr Jakobsen said the clinical trial of Immunocore's T-cell drug, as well as future trials, are inherently safe because they are based on
incremental rises in dose. All indications suggest it will lead to the expected breakthrough.
He added: "All the pharma companies have come to the realisation that immunotherapy may hold the ultimate key to cancer; it is the missing link in
cancer treatment that can give cures."
"They have seen this technology develop. It has come over the mountain top, if you like. With our melanoma trial they have seen it is safe – and it
20 years in the making and they are seeing efficacy & tolerability, which is paramount in clinical research if a biotech company wants to get their
therapy approved. I work in clinical research with the largest CRO in the world and I've have participated in six Phase 1 clinical trials over the
past few years.
If you are anything like me, you have arrived here with your doubts on the future success of this therapy; the possible suppression of this therapy;
or the possible exclusivity/availability of this therapy (elitism). We all know the giants in every industry love to gobble up their competition,
which often stifles innovation and progress… but this… this, I must have faith in. I have no choice. Millions, although they may never hear of
Immunocore or be prescribed ImmTACs or see the possible benefit of this therapy, may not have a choice either.
Isn’t it curious that this breakthrough was discovered in a single-story workshop, and not under the nose of an industry-giant which receives
millions upon millions of dollars for research and awareness each and every year?
This, by definition, is a breakthrough.
Keep an ear out!
Main source (already posted above)
Want to volunteer for a clinical trial?
edit on 28-7-2013 by six67seven because: (no reason given)