Novel immunotoxin shows promise in treating pancreatic cancer

A study led by first-year UNC School of Medicine student Salma El-Behaedi found that a novel immunotoxin, LMB-100, could be effective in the treatment of pancreatic cancer.

Novel immunotoxin shows promise in treating pancreatic cancer	click to enlarge Salma El-Behaedi

A study led by first year UNC School of Medicine student Salma El-Behaedi found that a novel immunotoxin, LMB-100, could be effective in the treatment of pancreatic cancer.

El-Behaedi conducted the research during a two-year research fellowship at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, before enrolling at the UNC School of Medicine. Her research was published in the journal Toxin.

El-Bahaedi said she was drawn to pancreatic cancer research because current treatment options are relatively limited. Many times, she said, patients are not diagnosed until their cancer has spread to other parts of the body, greatly limiting their treatment options.

Immunotoxins, a relatively new class of cancer fighting agents, are proteins coupled with a lethal bacterial toxin. The immunotoxins work by halting a cancer cell’s ability to make new proteins called growth factors.

During her research fellowship, El-Behaedi designed the immunotoxin LMB-100. In preclinical trials, the immunotoxin was able to halt the cancer cell’s ability to secrete pro-survival growth factors.

In humans, cancer cells can increase the number of pro-survival growth factors they secrete into their environment, increasing their resistance to chemotherapy. If Immunotoxins limit these growth factors, then chemotherapy could become more effective. El-Bahaedi also said her research shows that in pancreatic cancer , LMB-100 can also be effective on its own, without being coupled with chemotherapy.

“We were able to use the immunotoxin to target and sensitize cells before we added chemotherapy. We’ve been able to show that the immunotoxins target the cells’ ability to secrete growth factors. If cancer cells can’t release the survival markers, then they can’t tell other cells that it’s time to grow and proliferate,” El-Behaedi said. “This finding has great implications in the clinical setting.”

With El-Bahaedi enrolled at the UNC School of Medicine, the NCI will begin clinical trials to determine the effectiveness of the treatment.

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