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Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) © Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE)

Nanobodies offer glimmer of hope in fight against cancer

Parts of lama antibodies could be used to treat bone marrow cancer in future

Researchers at the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) have been able to prove that the antibodies of lamas help destroy cancer cells, a press release said Wednesday (August 1, 2018). The researchers had earlier successfully produced even smaller molecules (nanobodies) from the already small, but heavy chain antibodies of the animals using genetic engineering methods. The researchers now aim to develop these for use in patients.

Therapy with antibodies

Dr. Peter Bannas, Department of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology and Nuclear Medicine at UKE, explained: “For the treatment of bone marrow cancer, antibodies are available in addition to classical chemotherapy. These antibodies cause the tumours to shrink but their size makes it difficult for them to reach the inside of the tumour. As a result, individual tumour cells can sometimes survive.” The team of researchers investigated whether the use of the smaller nanobodies increases the penetration of the tumour and thus achieves a diagnostic and therapeutic advantage over conventional antibodies.

More effective nanobodies

“We were able to show that nanobodies obtained from llamas proved to be far more effective than conventional antibodies,” said Prof. Dr. Friedrich Koch-Nolte, Institute of Immunology at UKE. In addition, the researchers have now succeeded in fusing these nanobodies with other molecules of human antibodies. They were able to show that these antibodies effectively kill cancer cells both in the model and in bone marrow samples. Hopes are now high that the nanobodies can be further developed for use in patients.

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