B-cells are specialised immune cells that work as the factories of the immune system, pumping out antibodies into the blood stream. These antibodies then act as seeker missiles, homing in on targets recognised as harmful to the body and directing immune cells to attack them.
But in B-cell lymphomas, the B-cells themselves are the problem as far more are produced than the body needs. This new therapy uses the body’s own weapons against the tumour. In this trial an antibody, called DI-B4, has been designed to target a molecular marker, which is specific to B-cells and young cells destined to become B-cells. By binding to this marker, the antibody signals other immune cells to attack and destroy these B-cells.
B-cell lymphomas account for more than nine in 10 of all Non-Hodgkin lymphomas (NHL) with an estimated 10,500 cases every year in the UK.
This is an early phase trial to test how 40 patients will deal with the drug which will be led from Southampton General Hospital, with other centres including The Christie hospital in Manchester, the Royal Liverpool University Hospital and the Oxford University Hospital. The study will last four and a half years with an 18 month follow up.
These centres are part of Cancer Research UK’s network of Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres (ECMCs) which bring together cancer doctors and scientists to speed up the flow of ideas from the lab bench to a patient’s bedside.
Dr John Radford, Professor of Medical Oncology at the University of Manchester’s Institute for Cancer Sciences and trial lead at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust – part of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre, said: “New treatments have made a real impact for patients with lymphoma, but we need more therapies for those with tumours that become resistant. This trial of a new antibody treatment for B-cell lymphoma offers new hope for patients who have otherwise run out of options. It’s for exactly this type of innovative research involving specialist doctors, scientists and our patients, all aimed at revolutionising cancer treatment that the Manchester Cancer Research Centre exists.”
Dr Nigel Blackburn, director of drug development at Cancer Research UK’s Drug Development Office, said: “This trial is a perfect example of how we are beginning to harness the body’s immune system to save lives.
“Our scientists are at the cutting edge of the field to find new and powerful ways to treat cancer and using the immune system to do so is something we are heavily investing in as a promising way to treat a broad range of cancers.”
Notes for editors
For media enquiries contact Alan Worsley in the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 3469 8252 or, out of hours, on 07050 264 059.
Notes to Editors
About Cancer Research UK’s drug development office
Cancer Research UK has an impressive record of developing novel treatments for cancer. It currently has a portfolio of around 40 new anti-cancer agents in preclinical development, phase I or early phase II clinical trials. Since 1982, the Cancer Research UK drug development office has taken over 100 potential new anti-cancer agents into clinical trials in patients, five of which have made it to market and many others are still in development. These include temozolomide, a drug discovered by Cancer Research UK scientists, that is an effective new treatment for brain cancer. Six other drugs are in late development phase III trials. This rate of success is comparable to that of any pharmaceutical company
About the ECMC network
Conducting the majority of early-phase cancer clinical trials in the UK, experimental cancer medicine centres (ECMCs) provide infrastructure funding to enhance the quantity and quality of research in developing new medicines to help beat cancer. Each ECMC brings together lab-based experts in cancer biology with cancer doctors to speed up the flow of ideas from the lab bench to the patient’s bedside. Launched in 2007, the network of 18 ECMCs is jointly supported by Cancer Research UK, the National Institute for Health Research in England, and the Departments of Health of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who, together, have provided £35m from 2007-2012 and a further £35m from 2012 to 2017. Find out more at www.ecmcnetwork.org.uk