Monday, November 17, 2014

Anti-leukemia drug may also work against ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer cells are shown
forming small tumor. Image courtesy
of University of Gothenburg
CANCER DIGEST – Nov. 17, 2014 – An experimental monoclonal antibody called cirmtuzumab is currently in a first-in-human phase 1 clinical trial to assess its safety and effectiveness in treating chronic lymphocytic leukemia CLL may also prove effective against ovarian cancer as well as others, a new study shows.

Developed at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center by Thomas Kipps, MD, PhD, and colleagues, cirmtuzumab targets a specific protein that is normally inactive in adult normal cells. The new study appears on the Nov. 17 online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The ROR1 protein is used by embryonic cells during early development to migrate and to develop new organs. Once developed into adult cells, the protein is inactivated.

In the study the researchers found that ovarian cancer stem cells, which are thought to be responsible for cancer recurrence and metastasis express ROR1, and are largely resistant to standard chemotherapies.

"Cancer stem cells use ROR1 for their own growth and dissemination throughout the body,” says Kipps in a press release. “They are essentially the seeds of the cancer. The more seeds a tumor has, the greater its ability to recur after therapy or metastasize."

In a mouse model of human ovarian cancer, Kipps' team showed that cirmtuzumab appeared to deplete the tumor of cancer stem cells and disrupted the ability of the cancer cells to grow and metastasize.

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