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Can an old antibody learn a new trick?

Medicine@Yale, 2009 - Nov Dec

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Antibody-based drugs, which harnass and enhance the power of the immune system, have been useful in treating many diseases. However, most are expensive, have unacceptable side effects, or cannot be orally administered.

In papers published on the Web on October 19 and November 4 by the Journal of the American Chemical Society, David A. Spiegel, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry, and olleagues describe small molecules that direct antibodies to kill prostate cancer cells or cells infected with the HIV virus.

The molecules built by the Spiegel team are “bifunctional”—they have been designed to lock onto diseased cells and also onto anti-DNP, an otherwise passive antibody that is naturally present in many people and can be easily and safely induced in others.

“Instead of trying to kill the pathogens directly, these molecules manipulate our immune system to do something it wouldn’t ordinarily do,” says Spiegel. “This is an entirely new approach to treating these two diseases.”