New 'multi-cancer drug' still some way off
NHS Choices Behind the Headlines, 2012
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Anti-CD47 slowed or stopped certain cancers, but only in a lab
Scientists have developed “a drug that helps the immune system to break down cancerous tumours”, the Daily Mail has reported.
The newspaper says it could help fight at least seven cancers, including breast, bowel and brain cancer.
This news is based on laboratory and animal research focused on the role of a protein called CD47, which is found on the surface of healthy cells within the body.
Recent studies have found that certain leukaemia and lymphoma cancer cells also carry this protein, which masks them from the immune system.
In this new study the researchers looked at whether various other types of cancer tissue also carry CD47.
They also looked at whether using a drug that blocks CD47, known as anti-CD47, could help the immune system detect and kill cancerous cells.
They found that, in initial test tube studies, anti-CD47 allowed immune cells to attack cancerous cells they would have otherwise ignored.
When human tumour tissue was then implanted into mice with weakened immune systems treatment with anti-CD47 shrank the tumours and prevented them spreading to the rest of the body.
While these are certainly interesting results, they are extremely early ones produced in the artificial setting of a lab.