Preliminary testing of antibody proves effective against terminal cancer, weight loss

When people are first diagnosed with cancer, their first thought is often “Will I die? Is this terminal?” For many, the answer is sadly “Yes.” It becomes a matter of time before palliative treatment is no longer able to keep the patient’s disease at bay. For this reason, it is so crucial that researchers continue to focus on finding cures for terminal cancer.

A report published in the most recent issue of Proceedings of ¬†the National Academy of Sciences reveals that a “novel monoclonal antibody” can effectively prevent terminal cancer from advancing further. So far, the testing has been restricted to mice, says researcher Dr. Robert Debs of the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute, but results of the tests are promising.

“Our research shows that a novel monoclonal antibody can help block the terminal stage of cancer,” said Dr. Debs. “It does not produce any obvious toxic effects,” he goes on to say, even when it is administered in mice with “highly advanced” cancer.

“Rather, it helps to treat the progressive weight loss associated with advanced cancers,” he said, which is encouraging for those who know cancer and have suffered from the effects of cancer-caused weight loss.

Known as Cachexia, progressive weight loss during a battle with cancer is characterized by weakness and loss of the body’s fat and muscle. What many people may not know is that, for some people who know cancer, Cachexia and Anorexia go hand-in-hand. Some studies indicate that as many as 25% of cancer patients are anorexic when they receive their diagnosis. Many oncologists discover that their patients become anorexic at some point during their cancer treatment as well. Two-thirds of all cancer sufferers experience Cachexia when their cancer is in the most advanced stages, and it is important to understand that this disorder is very different from Anorexia. While patients with Anorexia starve themselves, those who Cachexia experience a change in their metabolism which causes their body to use the calories they take in¬†ineffectively. In other words, patients with Cachexia are still eating, but their body is refusing to utilize the calories and nutrients it is receiving.

Monoclonal antibodies are genetically engineered in a laboratory, and are created from a single clone of cells that are all identical. They are manufactured for use against certain proteins – namely, the proteins responsible for the growth of cancerous cells. Scientists say that terminal cancer cells are motivated by what is known as PECAM-1, or “platelet endothelial cell adhesion-1 molecule.” PECAM-I monitors the levels of proteins that encourage cancer growth. By genetically engineering a monoclonal antibody to specifically block PECAM-I, Dr. Debs and his researchers have been able to create a treatment that can treat patients with advanced, terminal cancer.

In the past, researchers have had a tendency to focus on studying cancers that can be cured, and not as much time had been designated for trying to better-understand cancer in its most advanced stages. Generally, cancer is considered to be in the advanced stage when it has spread to other parts of the body – it is then that many oncologists tell their patients that their cancer is untreatable. Cancer that has spread usually destroys a person’s vital organs. Dr. Debs hopes that his research will change the way scientists and cancer researchers view the study of terminal cancers.

“The anti-PECAM-1 antibody is very exciting because it shows effectiveness against a number of terminal cancers, and also concurrently shows the debilitating wasting syndrome that can develop as cancerous tumors become destructive,” he said.

How does the anti-PECAM-1 antibody work?

The anti-PECAM-1 antibody fuses to a protein located on the surface of the cells that line normal, healthy blood vessels – it does not bind to cancer tumor cells. The protein targeted by the anti-PECAM-1 antibody is responsible for controlling the secretion of “growth factors,” which regulate the growth of malignant tumors. So far, anti-PECAM-1 has shown to be effective against mice with colon cancer, breast cancer and melanoma.

“This is the first step,” said Dr. Debs. He is confident that his research has the ability to “significantly improve the lives of patients now suffering hopelessly from terminal cancer.”

Dr. Michael Rowbotham, who works with Dr. Debs, agrees. “Identifying these growth promoting factors represents an important advance” in the treatment of “hopeless” cancers.

There are a number of cancers that do not have a cure, and are considered fatal, including prostate cancer, malignant mesothelioma, certain skin cancers, and colon cancer.

The researchers are hopeful that they will begin testing anti-PECAM-1 on human patients within the next two years. This is good news for many in the cancer community, as anti-PECAM-1 treatment may not only extend the lives of patients with terminal cancers, but it may also improve the lives of patients who are dealing with the effects of Cachexia.


California Pacific Medical Center

Continuum Cancer Centers of New York

One Response to “Preliminary testing of antibody proves effective against terminal cancer, weight loss”

  1. Robert Wilson says:

    thanks for the post

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