A year and two days ago, our grantees at Stanford University led by Irv Weissman described their work with a protein that’s found on the outside of cancer cells. They had devised an antibody that latches on to this protein and, in the process, brings those cancer cells to the attention of the immune system, which destroys them.
The work got a lot of attention at the time, and it got more attention yesterday when a reporter apparently misread the 2012 date on the Science paper that first reported the work. Yesterday’s New York Post carried the story, a year and a day after the paper was published rather than the usual one day later for news stories.
Despite that minor news goof, it was a good story explaining work we’re really excited about, hailing the potential therapy as both a “Holy Grail” and “miracle drug”.
Given that the work has yet to be tested in people we’re reluctant to call it a miracle drug, but the work is certainly promising. Weissman has a $20 million award from CIRM to develop the therapy.
The New York Post described the work like this:
The drug works by blocking a protein called CD47 that is essentially a “do not eat” signal to the body’s immune system, according to Science Magazine.
This protein is produced in healthy blood cells but researchers at Stanford University found that cancer cells produced an inordinate amount of the protein thus tricking the immune system into not destroying the harmful cells.
With this observation in mind, the researchers built an antibody that blocked cancer’s CD47 so that the body’s immune system attacked the dangerous cells.
As it so happens, Weissman recently described this research to us in an Elevator Pitch: