Researchers at the University of Southampton have discovered key properties of an antibody that can be useful in fighting cancer. The study, published in Science Immunology, revealed how changing the flexibility of the antibody could stimulate a stronger immune response. The study helped researchers to make antibodies to stimulate important receptors on immune cells to "fire them up" and deliver more powerful and effective treatments for cancer. The study was financed by Cancer Research UK and joined structural biologists, immunologists, chemists and computer experts from the University together.
Antibody drugs for cancer treatment
The scientists believe that the findings of this study might help in improving antibody drugs that target cancer cells and treat several other automimmune diseases. By conducting the study, the team of researchers examined antibody drugs targeting the receptor CD40 to treat cancer. Clinical development can get affected due to poor understanding of how to revive the receptors upto the appropriate level. The problem can occur if antibodies are too much active, as they can turn toxic.
Researchers have found that the pliability of the structure between the arms of an antibody, also called “hinge” can affect the strength of the immune response. The study has given new information about how to engineer antibodies to deliver a better immune response. The last Southampton research found a particular type of antibody called IgG2, which is appropriate as a template for pharmaceutical interference, as it is more active than other types of antibodies. But, the cause of being more active was not determined.
Dr. Ivo Tews, Associate Professor, Structural Biology, University of Southampton, said, "Our perspective to conduct the study was to examine the structure of the antibody in atomic detail, through X-ray crystallography. The picture of this test is very accurate, but the information on how they move their 'arms' is absent, and we required a picture of the antibody in solution, for which we used an X-ray method called SAXS. We then also used mathematical and a chemical approach to study the data, with the help of Southampton High Performance Computing cluster IRIDIS."