A small start-up company in the UK is talking about doing the impossible - a cure for cancer.
In all probability, Immunocore is the only company worldwide that has been able to develop a way to harness the power of the immune system’s natural-born killer cells: the T-cells of the blood that kill invading pathogens, like viruses and bacteria, the Independent reported.
Bent Jakobsen, the Danish-born chief scientific officer of Immunocore who began to study T-cells 20 years ago while working at the Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, said that immunotherapy is radically different.
He said that his method doesn’t do away with other cancer treatments by any means, and only adds something to the arsenal, though it may have one unique feature – it could have the ability to actually cure cancer.
It is because of this potency, which attracted the attention of Genentech in California, owned by the Swiss giant Roche, and Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline, prompting them to signing deals with Immunocore, which could result in up to half a billion pounds being invested in new cancer treatments based on its unique T-cell therapy.
Today almost all the cancer treatments are burdened with the problem of sparing the healthy tissue from irreparable harm while ensuring that every cancer cell is killed, deactivated or removed.
According to Jakobsen, many companies have tried developing cancer cures based on antibodies, but have had limited success.
He said that a part of the problem was that antibodies are not designed to recognise cells and his company built a therapy around the second arm of the immune system, called cellular immunity, where T-cells seek out and destroy invading pathogens.
The company has devised a way to design small protein molecules, which it calls ImmTACs, which act as double-ended glue. At one end ImmTACs stick to cancer cells, strongly and very specifically, and leave healthy cells untouched and at the other end they stick to T-cells.
Jakobsen said that they use scaffold of the T-cell receptor to make something that is very good at recognising cancer even if it doesn’t exist naturally.
He asserted that although T-cells are not keen to recognise cancer, they force them to do so.