Lung Cancer: Cutting-Edge Treatments
Learn about some of the latest therapies developed to treat lung cancer -- and raise survival rates.
Antibody Therapy for Lung Cancer
Your immune system does not see cancer cells as a threat, destroying them
like it does viruses, bacteria, and foreign tissue. But the immune system can
be trained to attack tumors, and researchers have taken the first steps toward
creating lung cancer drugs that work this way.
One approach is called "targeted antibody therapy," where the immune
system recognizes a molecule called an antigen on the surface of an invader,
creates an antibody which latches onto the antigen, then destroys the
This works because some cancer cells have antigens that don't show up on the
vast majority of normal, healthy cells. And because the body doesn't naturally
make antibodies against these cancer antigens, scientists have.
Andrew Scott, MD, head of the Melbourne, Australia branch of the Ludwig
Institute for Cancer Research, has tested an antibody that targets the tissue
which supports a tumor. In a phase I clinical trial -- a study that tests a
drug's safety -- people with advanced lung cancer or colon cancer were injected
with the antibody. Then, using special dyes, researchers tracked where the
What they found were "very high concentrations in the cancer but very
low concentrations in any other normal tissue," says Scott, meaning the
antibody targets tumors specifically and that treatment will likely cause
little damage to healthy cells.
Scott says he expects to begin a phase II study by late 2007, which will
test how well the antibody treatment works. Besides prompting the immune system
to attack, antibodies might also be used to deliver a "payload" drug
directly to cancer cells, or to interfere with cellular communications, he
With many antigens unique to lung cancer cells, some researchers believe
it's vital to develop as many antibodies as possible. This way, says Sacha
Gnjatic, PhD, a researcher at the Ludwig Institute's New York City branch,
"if one antigen somehow escapes immune system, you can target another
Gradually, experts hope, lung cancer survival rates will rise.
Published March 13, 2006.