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Alpacas Cure Cancer

By Derek Dong

The Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) recently published a new research paper on a possible solution to the challenging problem posed by cancer. It seems our answer could be from the immune system of Alpacas.

EGF (Epidermal Growth Factor) is one of the main culprits responsible for the growth of dysregulated cells, or in other words, Cancer. Previously, there was no solution to inhibit the growth of this nanobody on a long term scale. But now, the immune system of the Alpaca is bringing a newfound hope.

“In spite of advances in treatments against the EGR receptor (EGFR) in patients, their efficacy decreases over time because patients develop resistance,” explains Monica Varese, an author of the paper, as well as a postdoctoral researcher at IRB Barcelona. “By taking advantage of an emerging biotech tool, nanobodies, we have been able to synthesise the first inhibitors with high affinity for EGF,” she summarizes.

IRB Barcelona found that by administering EGF into Alpacas, the Alpacas bodies produced a large amount of specific antibodies in response to these antigens. The researchers succeeded in identifying these antibodies, and were able to characterize these interactions outside a living organism, in vitro, and in human cancer cells as well. These new advances make the future of finally defeating cancer look optimistic.

Drugs made from this new technology would be a definite life saver for many patients who develop resistances to the EGFR inhibitors currently on the market. The next step in the application of this technology would be to evaluate the pharmacological effect of the new nanobodies in both cell and animal models of cancer. If the side effects are not too harmful, and the immune systems of most patients can handle the stimulus, there is a good chance that these antibodies could start to be developed into a new type of medicine.


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