A team of international scientists from ACRF-funded research institutes Monash University and Ludwig Institute of Cancer Research have uncovered that an antibody against the protein EphA3, could potentially be applied to treat a wide range of different cancers.
The protein EphA3 was discovered in 1992 by Professor Andrew Boyd for its role in promoting leukaemia cancer cells and an anti-body is now in clinical trials to treat this mutation in leukaemias.
Further discoveries showed aggressive brain tumours could also be targeted by this therapy. EphA3 is present in normal organs only during embryonic development but is released in blood cancers and solid tumours, fuelling cancer growth and providing a target for anti-bodies.
The research team led jointly by the late Professor Martin Lackmann, from the School of Biomedical Studies at Monash; and Professor Andrew Scott, from Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research used laboratory models of prostate cancer to mimic disease progression in humans.
EphA3 was found in stromal cells and blood vessels surrounding the tumour and they observed that treatment with an antibody against EhpA3 (chIIIA4) significantly slowed tumour growth. The antibody damaged tumour blood vessels and disrupted the stromal micro-environment, and cancer cells died because their ‘life-support’ was restricted.
Professor Scott said, “in addition, we screened various tumours from patient biopsies – sarcomas, melanomas as well as prostate, colon, breast, brain and lung cancers – and confirmed EphA3 expression on stromal cells and newly forming blood vessels.”
“Our research findings indicate that the tumour micro-environment is important, and monoclonal antibodies against EphA3 are one way to target and kill a variety of solid tumours as well as blood cancer.”