The immune system of the alpaca reveals a potential treatment for cancer

Medical Press 
By: Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona)
Photo: B S Guardiola, IRB Barcelona

Original content from Medical Press.

The natural world often provides the answer to unsolved medical problems. On this occasion, the solution to a challenge posed by cancer has come about from the immune system of camelids. A study headed by the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), in Belgium, describes a number of therapeutic tools that have the capacity to block the activity of EGF, a growth factor that is dysregulated in cancer cells.

EGF (Epidermal Growth Factor) is a therapeutic target in cancer; however, no inhibitors have been found for it to date. The team of researchers is the first to identify a family of nanobodies—antibodies that are exclusive to camelids—derived from alpacas that are effective against EGF. In this regard, they have described the molecular mechanisms underlying the affinity and selectivity of these nanobodies in an article published in the scientific journal Angewandte Chemie.

"In spite of advances in treatments against the EGR receptor (EGFR) in patients, their efficacy decreases over time because patients develop resistance," explain Monica Varese and Salvador Guardiola, co-authors of the study and postdoctoral researchers at IRB Barcelona. "By taking advantage of an emerging biotech tool, nanobodies, we have been able to synthesise the first inhibitors with high affinity for EGF," they say.

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