IISc designs antigen to boost production of antibodies against cancer cells

The approach gives a new direction to develop vaccine candidates for a variety of cancers

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have designed a synthetic compound (antigen) that can latch on to a protein in the blood and hitchhike a ride to the lymph node, where it can boost the production of antibodies against cancer cells.

The approach gives a new direction to develop vaccine candidates for a variety of cancers, the researchers say.

“Carbohydrate-based antigens have enormous importance and relevance in cancer vaccine development,” explains N Jayaraman, Professor at the Department of Organic Chemistry and senior author of the study published in Advanced Healthcare Materials. “One major reason is that both normal and abnormal [cancer] cells have large amounts of carbohydrates coating their surfaces. But the abnormal cells carry carbohydrates that are very heavily truncated.”

Jayaraman and his PhD student, Keerthana TV, zeroed in on a truncated carbohydrate called Tn found on the surface of a variety of cancer cells and synthesised it in the lab. Then, they combined it with a long-chain, oil-loving chemical – unlike carbohydrates which are water-loving – to form bubble-like micelles. They found that the combination is able to bind strongly to human serum albumin.

“The moment it latches on to albumin, the micelle breaks, and all the individual [antigen] molecules bind to the available albumin,” Jayaraman explains. “This opens up the idea that one doesn’t necessarily need to search for a virus or a protein or other types of carriers. Serum albumin is sufficient to carry it forward.”






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