New target for two tricky cancers

Blocking a specific protein reduces fibrosis and thwarts ovarian and pancreatic cancer

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HOUSTON—According to researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and the Houston Methodist Cancer Center, using an antibody to block a protein secreted by fibrous tissues in tumors can inhibit ovarian and pancreatic cancer—in mouse models, at least—by reducing fibrosis and blood vessel formation. They published their findings recently in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.
The team also found that the antibody developed to block the microfibril associated protein 5 (MFAP5), which exists similarly in humans and mice, also enhances the effectiveness of chemotherapy against the tumors.
“MFAP5 promotes fibrosis in ovarian and pancreatic cancers, and fibrosis promotes progression and reduces survival of people with these cancers,” said Dr. Samuel Mok, a professor of gynecologic oncology and reproductive medicine at MD Anderson. “By blocking this secretory protein with an antibody, we can treat the tumor by targeting multiple cellular types—fibroblasts and blood vessels—in the tumor microenvironment.”
The researchers are taking steps to advance the approach to clinical trials, including commercial manufacture of the antibody and additional toxicity studies.
“As with digital medicine, we are seeing more such marriage of data analysis and modeling with experimental biology to derive new understanding of disease mechanisms and novel drug targets,” noted the co-corresponding author, Dr. Stephen T.C. Wong, who is a professor and the associate director at Houston Methodist Cancer Center.

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