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Medicine Science

Drug Turns Immune System Against All Tumor Types 330

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the confused-mice-with-foot-tumors dept.
sciencehabit writes, quoting an article in Science: "A single drug can shrink or cure human breast, ovary, colon, bladder, brain, liver, and prostate tumors that have been transplanted into mice, researchers have found. The treatment, an antibody that blocks a 'do not eat' signal normally displayed on tumor cells, coaxes the immune system to destroy the cancer cells." The abstract and full paper are freely available. It seems fairly promising: "In mice given human bladder cancer tumors, for example, 10 of 10 untreated mice had cancer that spread to their lymph nodes. Only one of 10 mice treated with anti-CD47 had a lymph node with signs of cancer. Moreover, the implanted tumor often got smaller after treatment — colon cancers transplanted into the mice shrank to less than one-third of their original size, on average. And in five mice with breast cancer tumors, anti-CD47 eliminated all signs of the cancer cells, and the animals remained cancer-free 4 months after the treatment stopped."
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Drug Turns Immune System Against All Tumor Types

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  • by phantomfive (622387) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @03:17AM (#39481983) Journal
    It worked even better in mice that didn't get cancer transplants!

    I kid, I kid.
    • by bigpistol (1311191) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @07:26AM (#39482935) Homepage
      I just want to see the mice with breasts
      • by Phrogman (80473) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @08:46AM (#39483377) Homepage

        Your on the internet - there's probably a whole series of websites devoted to that very subject. Check 4Chan or Reddit :P

  • But... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @03:19AM (#39481987)

    What about non-tumor cells, which also display this cell determinant?

    • Re:But... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TeXMaster (593524) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @03:40AM (#39482073)
      Same perplexity I have. What if the good results are linked to the host being a mouse, and in humans the same treatment would end up becoming some kind of auto-immune disease instead?
      • Re:But... (Score:5, Funny)

        by priceslasher (2102064) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @06:07AM (#39482571)
        Already happened, it was called "I am Legend" (the movie). Will Smith saved us but I think the zombies got him in the end.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by brdsutte (576841)
        Auto-immune? I bet House can handle it ...
      • Re:But... (Score:5, Informative)

        by nahdude812 (88157) * on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @09:16AM (#39483605) Homepage

        That's the nature of drug testing. You test it out in several animals of varying levels of similarity to humans before you start testing in humans. Mice are a common starting point because they're inexpensive and small, and you can run trials with thousands of mice. Also, mice sort of self-destruct if things start going badly in them, they are fairly fragile. So they make good canaries because when things are going badly, the signs are not often subtle.

        Plenty of compounds show promising results in mice that prove to have reduced results in later trials with more complex animals or in humans, or show side effects only later in the drug study regime. Conversely it's almost certain that there are compounds out there which would provide amazing results in humans, but which failed early stage drug studies in animals. It's just not a great idea to be testing drugs for the first time in humans without some idea as to what the outcome would be; the fatality rate in animals is pretty high, and you can purposely infect them to treat for a specific disease. There are drugs that even with this prep work still fail in clinical (human) trials, either because of efficacy problems or because of unexpected or more-severe side effects, or some combination (if it's effective but with bad side effects in animals, then not very effective and with horrible side effects in humans, it will be rejected).

        The study in this article is the very earliest stage. Usually they do tiny studies like this as the very first trial. Many, many drugs produce interesting results at this stage, and fail the very next set of studies (statistically large populations, which 10 mice is not, even with extremely promising results such as this). The chances of such a drug making it to clinical trials is vanishingly small, almost all compounds fail, only a few ever make it.

        • Re:But... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by blue trane (110704) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @09:38AM (#39483803) Homepage Journal

          Your lack of empathy for these fellow-mortals is contemptible, my dear sir. Please repair your relation to Nature's social union.

          To a Mouse

          Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim'rous beastie,
          O, what panic's in thy breastie!
          Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
          Wi' bickering brattle!
          I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
          Wi' murd'ring pattle!

          I'm truly sorry Man's dominion
          Has broken Nature's social union,
          An' justifies that ill opinion,
          Which makes thee startle,
          At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
          An' fellow-mortal!

          I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
          What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
          A daimen-icker in a thrave 'S a sma' request:
          I'll get a blessin wi' the lave,
          An' never miss't!

          Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
          It's silly wa's the win's are strewin!
          An' naething, now, to big a new ane,
          O' foggage green!
          An' bleak December's winds ensuin,
          Baith snell an' keen!

          Thou saw the fields laid bare an' wast,
          An' weary Winter comin fast,
          An' cozie here, beneath the blast,
          Thou thought to dwell,
          Till crash! the cruel coulter past
          Out thro' thy cell.

          That wee-bit heap o' leaves an' stibble,
          Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
          Now thou's turn'd out, for a' thy trouble,
          But house or hald.
          To thole the Winter's sleety dribble,
          An' cranreuch cauld!

          But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane,
          In proving foresight may be vain:
          The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
          Gang aft agley,
          An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
          For promis'd joy!

          Still, thou art blest, compar'd wi' me!
          The present only toucheth thee:
          But Och! I backward cast my e'e,
          On prospects drear!
          An' forward, tho' I canna see,
          I guess an' fear!

    • Re:But... (Score:5, Informative)

      by MichaelSmith (789609) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @03:41AM (#39482075) Homepage Journal

      Yeah this seems to be the problem with all chemotherapy drugs. They target fast growing tissue, including the immune system. Being treated for these conditions can make you wish you were dead.

      • Re:But... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @04:04AM (#39482157)

        Sure, but in the cases where it works you eventually come away neither dead nor wishing you were dead. So your options are

        A. Take the drugs, wish you were dead, then get better, then feel fine

        B. Don't take the drugs. Be actually dead.

        I used to stagger home through the woods after each round of chemo, not quite wishing I was dead, but certainly feeling very sorry for myself, and then in a week's time I'd go do the same thing again. But it worked, so instead of being dead and buried back when Slashdot members with six digit user IDs didn't exist yet I'm still here and feeling fine. Slight elevated risk of solid tumours in old age, and no chance I'll win any records for free diving with what the radiotherapy did to my lungs after we finished chemo, but I'll probably outlive those of my peers who are smoking.

        • Re:But... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by MichaelSmith (789609) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @04:18AM (#39482209) Homepage Journal

          I am glad to hear that you came through okay.

        • Re:But... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by ratbag (65209) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @04:24AM (#39482229)

          Your post was possibly the post important message an AC has ever shared with this website. Thanks.

          • Re:But... (Score:5, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @04:36AM (#39482267)

            Your post was possibly the post important message an AC has ever shared with this website. Thanks.

            Indeed. If it has just finished "P.S. first post", it would have been perfect.

          • Re:But... (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @06:12AM (#39482597)

            There was an AC posting a few days ago in the thread about "steering wheel position" who had lost his wife and young son as a result of a malfunctioning airbag sensor. That's not to take anything away from the insight of AC above, though.

            Just to point out that ACs have a bad rep on slashdot that is increasingly outdated. I personally refused to sign up with /. at 5 digits because I thought I would waste more time here if I had an account. Since then privacy concerns have heightened massively. Anonymity has become something that can actually be praiseworthy.

            While the standard of posts has gone down massively on slashdot in the last 15 years, far more ACs are getted modded into visibility than before. Maybe some ACs are victims of the "slashdot edit wars", or semi-famous nicks that want to make their point in a neutral way, or prolific posters who got fed up of stalkers. ACs don't mind getting routinely bashed on slashdot - but the automatic hatred of ACs seems more dogmatic than based on any recent evidence.

            • Re:But... (Score:5, Insightful)

              by neokushan (932374) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @08:57AM (#39483459)

              Agreed. I come to slashdot for the discussions, not the articles which I tend to find on other sites before /. posts them. The discussions are brilliant here, even amongst the trolls and idiots.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I used to stagger home through the woods after each round of chemo

          The sad thing here may be that people who have never really had a significant health problem will act all shocked about having to "stagger home" and consider it some impossible act of bravery. Fact is, if you can walk home - or stand at all - you're not in that bad a state.

          I have just watched a grandparent slowly die - bedbound. His organs were failing. He bounced in and out of awareness of the people around him. Meanwhile I'm fortunate in that I've only been really unhealthy for a couple of weeks, followin

        • Re:But... (Score:5, Informative)

          by andot (714926) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @06:53AM (#39482745)
          I understand you. And I agree with you. I got 10 chemos and stem cell transplant 5 years ago. Yes, it was living hell. But seeing my kids grow up now makes it 1000 times worth it.
        • by qbast (1265706)
          You forgot most frequent option: C. Take the drugs, wish you were dead. Very soon you are.
    • Re:But... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Chatsubo (807023) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @04:21AM (#39482219)

      The way I understand it, is that our immune system usually waxes cells that have gone rogue, and we get 'cancer' all the time except those cells get killed quickly by our immune system.

      However 'true' cancer has a mutation that prevents this from happening and this drug turns that mechanism on again, so things can work as usual.

      In other words: normal cells should carry on as before.

      (If I understand this correctly, IANAD)

    • Re:But... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @04:38AM (#39482273)

      The authors share your concern. From the paper [pnas.org]:

      A concern in translating this therapy to human application is the potential for toxicity. CD47 is highly expressed on tumor cells, but also at varying levels on normal (nontumor) cells. However, here we demonstrate that blockade of CD47 in immune competent mice produces an effective antitumor response without unacceptable toxicity, albeit with a temporary anemia.

    • Re:But... (Score:5, Informative)

      by bestalexguy (959961) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @04:57AM (#39482327)

      What about non-tumor cells, which also display this cell determinant?

      They will die. But, from TFA: "CD47 is overexpressed on cancer cells". Cancer treatment is about destroying much more cancer cells than healthy ones.

    • Re:But... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Huntr (951770) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @06:14AM (#39482599)
      From TFA:

      Although macrophages also attacked blood cells expressing CD47 when mice were given the antibody, the researchers found that the decrease in blood cells was short-lived; the animals turned up production of new blood cells to replace those they lost from the treatment...

    • by tomhath (637240)
      RTFA:

      Analysis of patient tumor and matched adjacent normal (nontumor) tissue revealed that CD47 is overexpressed on cancer cells...CD47 is a commonly expressed molecule on all cancers, its function to block phagocytosis is known, and blockade of its function leads to tumor cell phagocytosis and elimination. CD47 is therefore a validated target for cancer therapies.

    • The tumor cells have more of the "I'm healthy" signals (CD47) than actual healthy cells do. If this treatment works, I suppose that means that there is a threshold effect here, if you have a normal amount of CD47 as you would on a normal cell, the immune system would ignore it.

      At the very least, the side effects could be less severe than targeting all dividing cells, which is what the current generation of chemo does.

      There is also the possibility to do things other than training the immune system to
  • Mouse != Human (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RenHoek (101570) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @03:24AM (#39482009) Homepage

    Very promising, but before we uncork the champagne, it's important to keep in mind that mice and humans are different enough that most cures don't translate 1:1 to humans.

    • Re:Mouse != Human (Score:5, Informative)

      by zanian (1621285) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @03:30AM (#39482031)

      While, you have a point

      that mice and humans are different enough that most cures don't translate 1:1 to humans.

      at least it has been tested on

      human breast, ovary, colon, bladder, brain, liver, and prostate tumors that have been transplanted into mice

      , rather than just on mice anatomy.

      • Re:Mouse != Human (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Aryden (1872756) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @03:59AM (#39482131)
        Yes but I believe his point is that, a mouse is not the same as a human and therefore we cannot yet tell what detrimental effects the drug may have on humans that did not occur in the mice.
      • at least it has been tested on

        human breast, ovary, colon, bladder, brain, liver, and prostate tumors that have been transplanted into mice

        Yeah, it helps a mouse immune system kill the tumors. Its likely it would also help a human immune system kill them.
        Now they need to make sure that it doesn't also kill the non-tumorous parts of the human breast, ovary, colon, bladder, liver and prostate in question.

      • by Pigeon451 (958201)

        The mice used in these studies are typically immune-suppressed to prevent it from attacking the human tumour transplanted inside. I've read about several cases where excellent animal trials did not have good outcomes in human trials. However, this is an great start, and I hope it works out.

    • by reboot246 (623534) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @04:10AM (#39482187) Homepage
      Then let's test it on lawyers! They're almost human,
    • Re:Mouse != Human (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JWSmythe (446288) <jwsmytheNO@SPAMjwsmythe.com> on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @05:43AM (#39482473) Homepage Journal

          It's a start. But you are right. People (scientists) are pushed to publish with even preliminary results. I'd prefer that stuff like this stay firmly in the scientific process, and not put out the press release until they have done enough testing to be reasonably sure of the result.

          10 mice is a start. A curiosity. Something to look more at. It's getting people's hopes up today, when we won't see it available to the general population for many years. Well, that's assuming that it does work as expected. They see a 90% success rate, with a sample set of 10. How does that translate out to a sample set of 1,000? How about humans of different ethnic origins, blood types, and other factors?

          I hope it does work as advertised. No one suffering from terminal cancer now, should hold their breath that it may work in their lifetime.

      • Re:Mouse != Human (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ceoyoyo (59147) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @09:32AM (#39483717)

        Publishing in scientific journals is part of the scientific process. Communication and sharing your results is critical to science, particularly when the next steps (human trials) will involve way more resources than your little wet lab probably has. You also want everyone you can get examining your work before you go giving experimental drugs to people.

        The problem seems to be overeager laymen. I guess we could close all the scientific journals to non-scientists and only announce final, ready to market developments. Personally I prefer the open approach and educating the public, but if you don't, please feel free not to read any scientific publications and avoid any news articles about them.

  • /b/ (Score:4, Funny)

    by Alex Belits (437) * on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @03:28AM (#39482019) Homepage

    I propose to perform the next experiment on /b/.

    Then maybe we will be able to continue this thread there.

  • by Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @03:30AM (#39482029) Homepage

    I'm a little over 30 now. Me getting cancer is relatively probable at some point in my life. The big question is will they cure it first?

    Oh, and if cancer doesn't get me, will I have robot attendants at home when I'm old and fragile, or will they just upgrade my body? Medicine is progressing at an amazing rate, really...

    • by rrohbeck (944847) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @04:23AM (#39482227)

      Remember that over 60% of cancers are environmentally caused (eating, drinking, smoking, sun, exposure to chemicals) and live accordingly.

      • by Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @04:31AM (#39482247) Homepage

        Remember that over 60% of cancers are environmentally caused (eating, drinking, smoking, sun, exposure to chemicals) and live accordingly.

        I do. Meaning I expose myself to a reasonable degree, and accept the risk. Much more fun to live that way IMHO. (Never smoked and hardly ever drink though.)

      • So what, live underground and grow your own mushrooms?

        Modern life doesn't lend itself to avoiding carcinogens in any realistic fashion unless one is ready to become a hermit.

        • So what, live underground and grow your own mushrooms?

          Modern life doesn't lend itself to avoiding carcinogens in any realistic fashion unless one is ready to become a hermit.

          And those mushrooms are probably known to the state of California to cause cancer.

      • So once they cure all cancer we'll finally be able to eat, drink, sit in the sun, etc again without worrying about cancer!

        "Rats, I sat in the sun too long. There's some melanoma. Better stop by CVS on the way home to pick up some CancerBGone."

    • by sFurbo (1361249) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @05:01AM (#39482345)

      The big question is will they cure it [cancer] first?

      Cancer isn't one disease, it is a rather diverse family of diseases. Today, medicine is able to treat some of them to the level where they are cured for most of the patients. Some of them, it can give patients years of extra life. For some of them, there isn't much we can do a this point. The advance to this level have been slow, but relatively steady. This will continue. We are probably never going to cure cancer, in the sense that all cancers are survivable by 95% of the patients, but we are slowly going to get better and better, so that more and more cancers fall in that category, and for most of the rest, the average number of years the patients survive will rise.

  • Optimisim (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @03:32AM (#39482043)

    I'm not sure why some people are so sure "big pharma" are disinterested in curing many diseases/conditions. After all, if you can sell a cure for cancer, you just landed in a bucket of money.

    Beyond that, the need for a cure is overwhelming. Even corporate greed will often take a backseat because this issue affects us all. If it was a condition associated with a specific population, or with the poor etc then I'm sure the interest would be much less humanitarian.

    Every day we get closer to a cure, every piece of research, even if it's only effective on mice takes us when step closer. I for one, appreciate every effort made in this regard.

    I do not have cancer and no one close to me has it either. Perhaps just a matter of time.

    • by azalin (67640)
      Especially if the bucket of money is outrageously large and will provide a permanent revenue stream. Also there is a large risk of loosing all of it if someone else published it.
    • Re:Optimisim (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gutnor (872759) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @04:14AM (#39482201)
      Also there is more money to be made curing psychosomatic type disease than real one. I'm sure big pharma would be happy to get rid of scary sickness like cancer so that people live longer and pay more attention to take their variety of "psychological disorders'. Pill to cure sadness, boredom, ... that where long term money is.
  • And still, no cure for cancer. ... oh.

  • by anwyn (266338) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @04:21AM (#39482223)
    What is the normal function of the "do not eat" signal? Just what normal function is going to get messed up when you turn this off?
    • I'll hazard a guess. (Score:4, Informative)

      by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @05:06AM (#39482359) Journal

      What is the normal function of the "do not eat" signal? Just what normal function is going to get messed up when you turn this off?

      I'm not sure which "do not eat" signal they're talking about. But one that I do know a little about is the one that prevents rejection of a placenta and multiple sclerosis.

      The immune system apparently recognizes and avoids attacking its own body primarily by:
        - Editing the sections of DNA coding for antibodies to produce a bunch of small clones of proto-antibody-producing cells that randomly react to all sorts of stuff.
        - Shortly after birth (when most of mommy's random cellular components have been purged from baby's body) letting these clones take a grand tour of baby's body - and anybody who recognizes anything dies off.
        - Then the survivors (who don't recognize any tissue in baby) turn themselves on and get ready to do a growth spurt if they recognize a target at the same time they're getting an "I'm being damaged" signal (i.e. histamine).
      Result: A no-autoimmune immune system. Well, almost.

      A significant problem is that there are a few tissues that aren't deployed yet when the baby is just born. One such tissue is the myelin sheaths of the nerves. Another, of course, is placental tissue from a pregnancy. (Unlike tribbles, humans aren't born pregnant.) If nothing were done about this, the immune system tissues would be a time-bomb, ready to go into attack mode if it happens to see a damage signal near a nerve or a placenta. This would result in multiple sclerosis or spontaneous abortion - both very big negative scores in the evolutionary game. So the immune system has a patch.

      The main myelin protein has a short sequence that tells the immune system that this is a late-blooming tissue, so leave it alone. (I'm guessing this may be the "do not eat" signal they're talking about.) Placental tissue has the same sequence. There are lots of opportunities for failure, of course. (Defects in the signal molecules, disease organisms mimicing it, etc.) But when this patch is working right the nerves and a new baby are protected without significantly degrading the immune system's response to diseases.

      This, by the way, is the reason nursing on cow's milk is a risk factor for MS. Milk has a protein related to the myelin sheath protein, but with the "do not eat" signal slightly different. As a result a baby may develop an allergy to that component of cow's milk - and thus to the common stretch of the myelin protein. Result: Autoimmune reaction to the myelin sheaths.

    • What is the normal function of the "do not eat" signal? Just what normal function is going to get messed up when you turn this off?

      OMG, I hope it's not the "do not fuck" signal! If I have to leave the basement every saturday night, I'm never going to finish watching my TNG DVDs in time for batlhjaj!

  • by hesaigo999ca (786966) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @08:42AM (#39483341) Homepage Journal

    Come on!!! Lets get this going, get some human subjects quickly, and lets end cancer as quickly as possible....stop just rehashing stories for the last 3 years about the same thing....I sometimes think that the amount of time it takes to get this out there, is enough tie for all of them to die from the disease....!

  • by assertation (1255714) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @09:38AM (#39483805)

    Lots of articles like this come and go. As far as I am concerned it is vaporware until doctors begin prescribing it. Lets hope it does turn out to be all that.

  • by s_p_oneil (795792) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @11:41AM (#39485031) Homepage

    What will Fark do? They'll have to stop using that "... still no cure for cancer" meme. Wonder what'll take its place.

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