An international team of scientists has shown that an antibody against the protein EphA3, found in the micro-environment of solid cancers, has anti-tumor effects. As EphA3 (see image) is present in normal organs only during embryonic development, but is expressed in blood cancers and in solid tumors, this antibody-based approach may be a suitable candidate treatment for solid tumors. The researchers from Monash University and Ludwig Cancer Research, in Australia, and KaloBios Pharmaceuticals, in the US, have had their findings published in the August 15, 2014 issue of Cancer Research The team, led jointly by the late Professor Martin Lackmann, from the School of Biomedical Sciences at Monash; and Professor Andrew Scott, from Ludwig Cancer Research, has found that even if tumor cells do not have this molecule they can thrive by recruiting and taking advantage of supporting EphA3-containing cells in the tumor micro-environment. First author, Dr. Mary Vail, Monash Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology said: “The tumor cells send out signals to the surrounding area and say: ‘We need a blood supply and a foundation upon which to spread’. We have shown that EphA3-expressing stromal stem cells, which are produced by the bone marrow, form cells that support and create blood vessels in tumors,” Dr. Vail said. Professor Andrew Scott’s team at Ludwig introduced human prostate cancer cells into a mouse model to mimic disease progression in humans. EphA3 was found in stromal cells and blood vessels surrounding the tumor. The scientists also observed that treatment with an antibody against EphA3 (chIIIA4) significantly slowed tumor growth. The antibody damaged tumor blood vessels and disrupted the stromal micro-environment, and cancer cells died because their ‘life-support’ was compromised.
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