Research ArticleCancer

Targeting Cancer with a Lupus Autoantibody

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Science Translational Medicine  24 Oct 2012:
Vol. 4, Issue 157, pp. 157ra142
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3004385

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Taming the Big Bad Wolf

Just like the wolves for which lupus is named, the antibodies involved in its pathogenesis can attack almost any part of a patient, causing widespread damage. Now, Hansen et al. show that these biological wolves can sometimes be tamed and their ferociousness put to use in treating another deadly disease.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease associated with antibodies that target host DNA, wreaking havoc on patients’ cells throughout the body. Recently, cancer researchers have tried to co-opt some of these antibodies, particularly those that can penetrate human cells, for use as vehicles for therapeutic agents. While using lupus antibodies to deliver proteins to protect normal cells from therapeutic ionizing radiation delivered to a tumor, researchers discovered that one antibody, 3E10, could itself sensitize cancer cells to radiation treatment. The authors then characterized this observed effect in malignant cells and determined its mechanism. They found that 3E10 bound single-stranded DNA and interfered with its repair, making the cells more susceptible to DNA-damaging agents such as doxorubicin and radiation. In addition, 3E10 alone was toxic to cancer cells with deficient DNA repair pathways, such as those that harbor BRCA2 mutations.

Further research is necessary to identify other pathways that make tumor cells susceptible to 3E10 and to analyze the pharmacokinetics and other characteristics of this treatment. However, 3E10 was already shown to be safe in a previous phase 1 trial in lupus patients and should now be able to transition into clinical trials for cancer patients as well. Although researchers have not yet discovered a cure for lupus, the big bad wolf’s offspring may potentially tame another life-threatening illness.

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