NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Shark antibodies 'may target breast cancer'

Shark
Image caption The three-year study will investigate shark IgNAR antibodies

Scientists have been awarded more than £200,000 to examine whether antibodies found only in sharks can be used to help treat breast cancer.

The biologists from the University of Aberdeen have been awarded the grant from the Association for International Cancer Research (AICR).

The three-year study will investigate whether shark IgNAR antibodies can prevent certain molecules from helping cancer cells grow.

AICR said the work was "important".

Dr Helen Dooley, from the University of Aberdeen's school of biological sciences, who is leading the study, said: "Our work centres on a type of antibody, called IgNAR, which is uniquely found in the blood of sharks.

"IgNAR antibodies are interesting because they bind to targets, such as viruses or parasites, in a very different way to the antibodies found in humans.

"They can do this because their attachment region is very small and so can fit into spaces that human antibodies cannot.

"We believe we can exploit the novel binding of IgNAR and use it to stop HER2 and HER3 molecules from working, and prompting cancer cells to grow and divide."

She added: "With the funding from AICR we can begin to explore the potential of IgNAR as a future treatment for breast cancer.

"This is only the first step in a very long process but if our hypothesis holds true we hope to develop new anti-cancer drugs based upon these unique shark antibodies."

Lara Bennett, AICR's science communication manager, said she hoped the research could lead to the future development of more effective treatments to help patients who become resistant to drugs such as Herceptin.

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