CD47 as a Potential Target for Many Cancers

Commonalities between many different forms of cancers will become increasingly important as biotechnology offers the ability to target them. They offer the prospect of a simplifying of cancer research and development, and far more cost-effective therapies - the big question is to what degree they exist at all: "A decade ago, biologist Irving Weissman [discovered] that leukemia cells produce higher levels of a protein called CD47 than do healthy cells. CD47, he and other scientists found, is also displayed on healthy blood cells; it's a marker that blocks the immune system from destroying them as they circulate. Cancers take advantage of this flag to trick the immune system into ignoring them. In the past few years, Weissman's lab showed that blocking CD47 with an antibody cured some cases of lymphomas and leukemias in mice by stimulating the immune system to recognize the cancer cells as invaders. Now, he and colleagues have shown that the CD47-blocking antibody may have a far wider impact than just blood cancers. ... What we've shown is that CD47 isn't just important on leukemias and lymphomas. It's on every single human primary tumor that we tested. ... Moreover, Weissman's lab found that cancer cells always had higher levels of CD47 than did healthy cells. How much CD47 a tumor made could predict the survival odds of a patient. ... To determine whether blocking CD47 was beneficial, the scientists exposed tumor cells to macrophages, a type of immune cell, and anti-CD47 molecules in petri dishes. Without the drug, the macrophages ignored the cancerous cells. But when the CD47 was present, the macrophages engulfed and destroyed cancer cells from all tumor types. Next, the team transplanted human tumors into the feet of mice, where tumors can be easily monitored. When they treated the rodents with anti-CD47, the tumors shrank and did not spread to the rest of the body. In mice given human bladder cancer tumors, for example, 10 of 10 untreated mice had cancer that spread to their lymph nodes. Only one of 10 mice treated with anti-CD47 had a lymph node with signs of cancer. Moreover, the implanted tumor often got smaller after treatment."



We have seen and heard similar seemingly miraculous research in the past but unfortunately in the end results tend to be rather disappointing. Cancer patients who are reading this news item should take it with a pinch of salt. It is highly unlikely that this research will produce the "miracle bullet" against cancer. CD47 is known for some time and it is hard to believe that suddenly it has become a candidate for miracle cure. Seems to me that Stanford researchers are good in attracting funding and have lifted CD47 from the woodwork to get $20 mil for human trials.

Posted by: S. Papastratos at March 27th, 2012 3:27 PM

Since I have a stack of papers before I get to this one, did the paper happen to mention if that antibody also recognized mouse CD47 and, if so, how effectively? If the answer is no, then I am not entirely certain how these results could be effectively translated into human clinical trials. At least not in a very straightforward fashion.

Posted by: IvoryTowerScientist at March 28th, 2012 4:11 PM

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