Aberdeen University looks for breast cancer drug in shark blood
11 October 2013
AICR, the Scottish cancer research charity, has awarded
biologists from the University of Aberdeen a grant of over £200,000
to test if an antibody found in shark blood can inhibit the growth
of cancer cells.
The three-year study will investigate if shark IgNAR antibodies
can block two molecules found on the surface of cancer cells, called
HER2 and HER3, that signal them to grow and divide. The research
could pave the way for the development of new drugs to fight breast
Around one in four women with breast cancer have a type referred
to as HER2-positive breast cancer, where a very high level of HER2
is found on the surface of cancer cells. HER2-positive breast cancer
can be successfully treated with drugs, however resistance to
treatment is an increasing problem.
Dr Helen Dooley, from the University of Aberdeen’s School of
Biological Sciences who is leading the study, said: “IgNAR
antibodies are interesting because they bind to targets, such as
viruses or parasites, in a very different way to the antibodies
found in humans. They can do this because their attachment region is
very small and so can fit into spaces that human antibodies cannot.
We believe we can exploit the novel binding of IgNAR and use it to
stop HER2 and HER3 molecules from working, and prompting cancer
cells to grow and divide.
“With the funding from AICR we can begin to explore the potential
of IgNAR as a future treatment for breast cancer. This is only the
first step in a very long process but if our hypothesis holds true
we hope to develop new anti-cancer drugs based upon these unique