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A personalised antibody therapy for leukaemia

  • Researcher: Dr Christoph Merten
  • Institution: European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), Heidelberg, Germany
  • Award Amount: £198,498 for 3 years from January 2015
  • Cancer Type: Leukaemia
A personalised antibody therapy for leukaemia
Dr Christoph Merten in Heidelberg is testing a new type of personalised antibody therapy for leukaemia. Antibodies have become very promising drugs for cancer therapy, but sometimes they are not as effective as they could be. In particular, cancer cells often develop mechanisms to overcome the treatment. Using microfluidic technology, where very tiny droplets of water are used as 'test tubes', Dr Merten will screen hundreds of thousands of antibodies for their effect on tumour cells. He will put special emphasis on personalized approaches providing the most efficient antibodies for each individual patient. "Once we have identified the good ones, that is, ones which we think will kill cancer cells, we can improve them even more in the laboratory," says Dr Merten. "We can produce high concentrations of the 'good' antibody and modify it so it becomes even more deadly to tumour cells. Then we can inject the 'souped up' antibodies into the patient to fight the disease." Dr Merten is excited that this new treatment could be a real step forward. "If our method works, we think this approach should cause fewer side-effects and be more effective, compared to more conventional anticancer treatments like chemotherapy. Ultimately this therapy could be used not just to treat leukaemia, but to tackle a variety of other cancers."
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