October 20, 2015

TSRI Scientists Find Way to Make Leukemia Cells Kill Each Other

Richard A. Lerner, MD, is the Lita Annenberg Hazen Professor
of Immunochemistry at The Scripps Research Institute.

Strategy May Open Up New Front in War on Cancer

(October 20, 2015)  Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have found a way to change leukemia cells into leukemia-killing immune cells. The surprise finding could lead to a powerful new therapy for leukemia and possibly other cancers.

“It’s a totally new approach to cancer, and we’re working to test it in human patients as soon as possible,” said senior investigator Richard A. Lerner, Institute Professor and the Lita Annenberg Hazen Professor of Immunochemistry at TSRI.

The findings, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, result from the discovery of a rare human antibody.

Unexpected Effects

The Lerner laboratory has pioneered techniques to generate and screen very large libraries of antibodies (immune system molecules), using the power of large numbers to find therapeutic antibodies that bind to a desired target or activate a desired receptor on cells.

Recently, the lab mounted an effort to find therapies for people with certain immune cell or blood factor deficiencies, by looking for antibodies that activate growth-factor receptors on immature bone marrow cells that might induce these bone marrow cells to mature into specific blood cell types. Over the past few years, Lerner and his team succeeded in identifying a number of antibodies that activate marrow-cell receptors in this way.

journal reference >>