Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have developed an antibody that has the potential to suppress lung tumour cell growth and breast cancer spread to other organs.
The antibody, which they dubbed Y4, has been found to work in transplanted tumour experiments in mice.
The findings were reported in the journal Nature Communications.
The antibody targets a potassium channel called KCNK9. Most commonly found in brain tissue and overabundant in lung, breast and other tumour cells, KCNK9 is among many gate like proteins that work to establish an electrical gradient that controls the flow of essential chemical ions, such as potassium in and out of cells that need them to function.
KCNK9’s exact role in cancer is unclear, but scientists believe it helps tumour cells survive, grow and invade normal tissue.
“Our experiments do not predict how well the antibody would perform in cancer patients,” said one of the researchers John Laterra, professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
“But the study points the way toward targeting this key channel in human cancers, particularly since KCNK9 is overexpressed in about 40 percent of breast and lung cancers,” Laterra noted.
When the researchers added Y4 to KCNK9-expressing human breast and lung cancer cells grown in the laboratory, the antibody reduced the cells’ growth by between 25 to 65 percent, and triggered cell death in three of the cancer cell lines by between 5 and 30 percent.
In further tests of the antibody, the scientists found that Y4 could slow the growth of human lung cancer cells transplanted into mice by up to 70 percent.
The drug also decreased the number of lung metastases in mice injected with mouse breast cancer cells, from an average of 30 metastases to an average of five after 25 days of treatment.
Metastasis is the spread of a cancer from one organ or part to another not directly connected with it.