Singapore scientists discover new cancer drug that could be alternative to chemotherapy

Singapore scientists discover new cancer drug that could be alternative to chemotherapy

IMCB scientists
IMCB researchers from left: Min Thura, Joel Xuan En Sng, Abhishek Gupta, Qi Zeng, Nicholas Yan Zhi Tan, Abdul Qader Al-Aidaroos. (Photo: A*STAR)

SINGAPORE: Singapore scientists have discovered a new antibody drug that could potentially be used as an alternative for chemotherapy in treating cancer.

In a scientific advisory issued on Thursday (Aug 1), the Agency for Science, Technology and Research's (A*STAR) Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) announced the findings of a study that had been published in scientific journal Nature Communications on Jun 6. 

The findings revealed the scientists had generated PRL3-zumab, a humanised antibody. Using antibodies to attack cancer cells in the body is a form of cancer immunotherapy that harnesses the immune system to kill cancer cells.

PRL3-zumab targets the PRL-3 protein, a tumour antigen that promotes cancer growth and is found in about 80 per cent of 11 common cancers the researchers examined.

This targeted treatment does not damage surrounding healthy cells that do not express PRL-3.

cancer drug
The immunofluorescence image depicts cancer cells expressing PRL-3 tumour antigen, which the PRL3-zumab antibody drug binds to (green); healthy cells with Tiam antibody labelling as control (red). (Image: Professor Qi Zeng, Research Director, Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB), A*STAR)

Professor Qi Zeng, research director at IMCB and lead researcher of the study, said: "PRL3-zumab represents an innovative and disruptive approach to cancer therapy, as it is highly targeted to cancer cells and has less side effects compared to traditional cancer drugs."

Traditionally, chemotherapy targets cells that grow and divide quickly. This means that other than killing cancer cells, it can also affect other fast-growing healthy cells, like those of the hair, skin, intestines and bone marrow.

The IMCB research team first tested on animal models and found that the PRL-3 mouse antibody could suppress tumour growths that expressed the PRL-3 antigen in gastric, liver, lung, ovary, breast, acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) and kidney cancers.

The team has also been testing the PRL3-zumab on human tumour samples since 2012 and results showed that the antibody can be used against a broad spectrum of common cancers, including those of the liver, lung, gastric, breast, colon and kidney.

In 2018, PRL3-zumab completed Phase 1 clinical trials at the National University Cancer Institute and will soon be undergoing Phase 2 to test for efficacy and proof of concept of the therapy.

Source: CNA/co(hs)

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