Antibodies are key to the immune system’s recognition of dangerous cells and viruses.
Made by immune system cells, each is different and will stick to the distinctive molecule of a specific foreign cell or virus (the ‘antigen’), tagging it for attack by other parts of the immune system, or blocking its work.
Making antibodies to target cancer
The pioneering laboratory work of Prof Martin Glennie and other Southampton scientists has underpinned our world-leading clinical development of antibody-based therapies, led by Prof Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician and director of Southampton’s CRUK centre.
Facilitating destruction of cancerous cells
Southampton is a centre of excellence in lymphoma and leukaemia treatment; not least because of our work with antibodies that attach to the cancerous blood-borne immune cells involved in these conditions, and facilitate their destruction.
Peter Johnson has led this area of work and you can find out more in his profile.
Stimulating immune system cells to attack cancer
When antibodies attach to a target cell they can stimulate specific immune system cells (T cells) to attack the target and other similar cells.
Prof Christian Ottensmeier and others have demonstrated survival benefits for melanoma patients, and are combining this approach with chemotherapy in adult small cell lung cancer, and with a cancer vaccine in post-chemotherapy treatment of neuroblastoma in children.
Targeting treatments to cancerous cells
By joining (or ‘conjugating’) a cancer cell specific antibody with radioactive material, a drug or a toxin, we can target these destructive agents directly to tumours and cancerous cells.
Not only can this make treatment more effective, but it also helps avoid many of the side-effects involved in conventional chemotherapy or radiotherapy, due to the whole body being affected by the active substance.
Technically very complex, delivering radiotherapy using this approach is a real strength of the Southampton Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre, particularly in the treatment and management of lymphoma and leukaemia.