A newly engineered antibody holds promise in leading the fight against cancerous tumors.

Researchers from the University of Southampton have developed a new antibody that could unlock cancer’s defense against the body’s immune system by targeting 4-1BB, an immune receptor that can activate the killer T-cells to find and destroy cancer cells.

The researchers found that 4-1BB is present mainly on a population of T cells within regulatory T cells, which switch off the killer T cells.

The team found that in a pre-clinical tumor, setting an anti-4-1BB antibody that deleted regulatory T cells caused regression in the tumor. However, because the type of antibody that is good at deleting regulatory T-cells does not stimulate the killer T-cells and vice versa, it is not possible to use a regular type of antibody to harness both therapeutic approaches.

In the study, the researchers designed and engineered the new antibody to delete the regulatory T cells within the cancerous tumor, removing the suppression they exert, while also activating the killer T cells at the same time. In laboratory testing, the dual-purpose antibody was highly effective in eradicating cancerous tumors.

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