UCB subsidiary Celltech has joined forces with the University of Durham and another UK-based company to develop an unusual approach to treating cancer using magnetic fields.
Magnets have been touted as having healing properties for decades, but until now the pharmaceutical industry has not embraced the approach, and magnet therapy has largely been the preserve of alternative practitioners. Now, Celltech, Durham and Oxford Instruments Molecular Biotools plan to develop the first UK antibody-targeted magnetotherapy technology; a potentially new approach for cancer therapy.
Celltech's targeted antibody technology will deliver inert nanoparticles to tumours that subsequently are treated by application of a controlled external magnetic field. Prior studies have revealed that magnetic fields can have a range of effects on cellular functions, including disturbances in the processes of cell cycle, DNA replication and repair, and cell death by apoptosis (programmed cell death).
An interdisciplinary team made up of physicists and chemists, from the University of Durham led by Dr John Evans, will initially concentrate on magnetic particle production and coating. The team has expertise in the fabrication of designer magnetic particles with controllable size, shape and magnetic properties that will be crucial for this application.
The company is a pioneer in the area of targeted therapy, developing, through its collaboration with Wyeth, the first antibody targeted chemotherapy medicine (Mylotarg) in 2000.
Targeting reduces damage to healthy tissue, a side effect that is a problem with many current anti-cancer drugs. Recent Celltech innovations include facilitating the production of ultra-potent antibodies in a fraction of the normal time. It is expected that this technology will be deployed in this new partnership.
The Oxford Instruments Molecular Biotools team, led by Dr Andy Sowerby, is providing the controlled magnetic environment that initiates the process of cell death or apoptosis of the targeted tumour cell.