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Einstein scientists treat cancer as an infectious disease -- with promising results
Date:10/30/2007

(BRONX, NY) Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have shown for the first time that cancers can be successfully treated by targeting the viruses that cause them. The findings, published in the October 31 issue of PloS One, also raise the possibility of preventing cancer by destroying virus-infected cells before they turn cancerous.

The Einstein researchers used a technique called radioimmunotherapy, in which radioisotopes are piggybacked onto antibodies. Once these precision-made molecules are injected into the body, the antibodies home in on a specific protein targetand the radioisotope warhead destroys the cell to which the protein is attached. In this research the targets were viral antigens: proteins expressed by virus-infected cells that can cause those cells to multiply out of control and become cancerous.

Nearly 20 percent of human cancers worldwide are caused by preexisting virus infections. Prime examples are liver cancer (caused by hepatitis B and C viruses), cervical cancer (caused by human papillomaviruses) and certain lymphomas (caused by the Epstein-Barr virus). But while antigens on the surface of cells are susceptible to attack by antibodies, the viral antigens associated with cancers typically lurk inside infected cells, so scientists had assumed that antibodies couldnt reach them.

We had a hunch that rapidly growing tumors can outgrow their blood supply, resulting in dead tumor cells that might spill their viral antigens amongst the living cancer cells, says Dr. Arturo Casadevall, Forchheimer Professor and Chair of Microbiology & Immunology at Einstein and co-senior author of the study. So we hoped that by injecting antibodies hitched to isotopes into the blood that theyd be carried deep into the tumor mass and would latch onto these now-exposed antigens. Then the blast of radiation emitted by the radioisotope would destroy the live tumor cells nearby.

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Contact: Karen Gardner
kgardner@aecom.yu.edu
718-430-3101
Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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