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Research Scientist Dr. Weston Struwe

Redesigned Bi-Specific Antibodies May Offer New Hope Against Secondary Breast Cancer

OXFORD, October 6th 2015: The charity Against Breast Cancer are funding a 4-year project at Oxford University to make new breast cancer treatments that stick to cancerous breast cells that have spread throughout the body; a currently incurable condition termed metastases, or secondary spread.

Dr. Weston Struwe of the Glycoprotein Therapeutics Laboratory will make and test novel antibodies for secondary spread that avoid damaging healthy cells whilst targeting the cancerous ones, no matter where they are in the body or how small the tumour.

Dr. Struwe explains “We hope to show that specific targeting of metastatic cells can be achieved by engineering antibodies to bind 2 different targets on a cancerous cell instead of only one, and demonstrate that these newly designed antibodies can be stably produced".

The new antibodies will ‘see’ 2 different molecules, both present only on the surface of cancerous cells which scientists hope will increase the likelihood of them sticking to the surface of secondary breast cancer cells, even if the target molecules are present at a low concentration on the cell surface. This will also reduce toxicity of the treatment as healthy cells that may display one of the target molecules, are ignored. As a treatment for secondary breast cancer, these antibodies may prevent growth or survival signals being received by the breast cancer cells, or mark them for destruction by the immune system.

Current antibody treatments, such as the HER2-binding antibody Herceptin, stick to cancerous cells that have lots of the target molecule present on the cell surface but miss cancerous cells that display fewer molecules. Antibody treatments may also stick to healthy cells with normal levels of the target molecule, such as heart cells that display HER2 which is involved in normal cell growth for repair of heart tissue and requires heart monitoring during Herceptin treatment.

Dr. Nicola Winstone, Research Manager at Against Breast Cancer says “If this project proves successful these antibodies will be assessed in future clinical trials and could provide a potent new treatment method for secondary breast cancer that may be applicable to other metastatic cancer types too”.

One in five breast cancer cases result in fatal metastases, when breast cancer cells break away from the original tumour site and establish new tumours in bone, lung, liver or brain. Because they look a lot like healthy cells, cancerous cells are not recognized as dangerous by your body, and antibodies made naturally by your immune system do not stick to them.

For more information about the charity and how to get involved by volunteering or fundraising, please see the website at Against Breast Cancer

Against Breast Cancer

Against Breast Cancer is a charity dedicated to funding ground-breaking research to increase survival after a breast cancer diagnosis by focusing on secondary spread, the cause of all breast-cancer related deaths. We fund research that addresses critical gaps in scientific resources and knowledge to help doctors diagnose and treat secondary breast cancer faster and more effectively, and to understand factors that may increase or reduce the risk of secondary spread so that people can make informed diet and lifestyle choices.
We have directly funded the collection of, and continue to fund the storage of over 23,000 blood and urine samples, provided annually by over 3,300 women with breast cancer from 56 hospitals across the UK in our Diet & Lifestyle Study, the largest national study of its kind. Researchers can determine differences between women who develop secondary breast cancer and those who do not by studying this collection of biological samples and dietary and lifestyle information provided at the same time.

Glycoprotein Therapeutics Laboratory

The Glycoprotein Therapeutics is based within the Oxford Glycobiology Institute at the University of Oxford. The laboratory aims to develop new therapies and vaccines by exploiting specialist knowledge and facilities in the field of glycobiology. The laboratory is led by Dr Max Crispin who has published over 60 papers and filed 4 patent applications including in the field of novel therapies for Breast Cancer. He is the co-founder of Immago Biosystems Ltd and the Against Breast Cancer Fellow at Oriel College, Oxford.

Dr Weston Struwe

Weston recently joined the Glycoprotein Therapeutics Laboratory having worked in the Department of Chemistry in Oxford since 2012. His research exploits mass spectrometry, a technique capable of detailing the mass, size and shape of biomolecules, to understand the importance of protein glycosylation in human development, pathogenic diseases and in biotherapeutic drug design. His most recent publication demonstrated that engineering of the glycan component on the breast cancer antibody drug Herceptin, enables the addition of chemotherapeutic drugs to improve potency. Together these methods will help the group design novel antibodies with greater specificity to breast cancer cells. Weston has published over 30 papers in the field of glycobiology and mass spectrometry and is a Research Scholar at University College, Oxford.

Contact information:

Nicola Winstone, Research Manager at Against Breast Cancer
T: (+44) 01235 534211 M: (+44) 07769114403 F: (+44) 01235 535109
Available to contact via mobile at any time

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