What began decades ago as the discovery of an antibody from mice that targets human cancer cells is now undergoing human trials in the US as the basis of a treatment for acute leukaemia.
The antibody targets a protein called EphA3, which is found in about half of all acute leukaemias as well as many other human cancers including a significant proportion of malignant melanomas, brain tumours and lung cancers. The antibody, called KB004, has been shown to kill certain types of cancerous tumours grown from human samples.
“The KB004 project has a special place in my heart as it originated in my own lab nearly 25 years ago,” says Prof Andrew Boyd, Professor of Experimental Haematology at the University of Queensland and head of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research’s Leukaemia Foundation Laboratory.
The most common tumours in children are caused by one type of acute leukaemia, the result being an overproduction of immature white blood cells.
“Although the project now involves two other research groups in Australia and an American company, there is a sense of nearing the goal I set out to achieve when I first started my research career.”
KaloBios Pharmaceuticals, a US-based biotech company took the original antibody Andrew’s group discovered in mice and adapted it into a form that would allow it to be accepted by the human body as part of the immune system rather than an intruder.
Phase 1 clinical trials of antibody KB004 have now commenced, Andrew says.
“I’m a medical researcher, but I also still treat patients. You always hope to see your work end up as a treatment.”
Photo: Professor Andrew Boyd, who has seen his antibody discovery incorporated into a potential cancer treatment.
Leukaemia Foundation Laboratory, Queensland Institute for Medical Research, Andrew Boyd, Andrew.Boyd@qimr.edu.au, www.qimr.edu.au/page/Lab/Leukaemia_Foundation/