A research team at the University of Virginia reports possible progress in fighting ovarian, breast, uterine, renal, head and neck and pancreatic cancers, and if you’re a taxpayer in Virginia, you’re an investor.
Dr. John Herr is a specialist in human reproduction, and he’s identified a specific protein on the surface of mature human eggs. Search other places in the bodies of men and women, and you won’t find that protein – unless the individuals in question have cancer. Herr and Dr. Eusebio Pires report the protein, called SAS1B, shows up on many different tumors:
"For example in uterine cancer, like 67-70%, but all of our ovarian tumors that have been studied – 100%, head and neck that we’ve studied like 90% and renal cancers like around 70% , so the percentages are different in different cancers.”
So they’re creating an antibody that would be drawn to that protein alone – carrying a toxin to the target like a tiny drone with a missile. Dr. Herr has proven the concept in the laboratory.
“We’ve tried it with human tumor cells growing in a dish where we make the antibody drug and we administer it in the dish, and under those conditions we can kill the cancer cells.”
Because it would only attack SAS1B proteins, Herr says this chemotherapy would not cause hair loss, nausea and other miseries.
“The thing to realize about most chemotherapeutics is they target molecules that are present in most all cells – they target proteins that are common to the tumor and healthy cells, and that’s why you get all the side effects that you see with contemporary therapeutics.”
And Pires says it would not even keep a woman from having kids.
“This protein is expressed only in mature eggs, so when the therapy is developed, it would target only the mature eggs, and in case a woman wants to conceive in the future, her fertility is preserved.”
Tests on laboratory animals will begin in a matter of months, and the first human trials could get underway in less than two years. Confidence in this research is strong enough that Herr and Pires have raised $1.5 million from a major pharmaceutical company, individual donors and the state of Virginia.