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Immunotoxins: Monoclonals At Work In Fight Against Cancer

Since the discovery of monoclonal antibodies in 1975 (see pages 22 and 29), scientists have attempted to harness their power to bind selectively with substances in the body. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, researchers sought to combine potent cell toxins with a monoclonal antibody that would bind with cancer cells. They believed that the resulting immunotoxin (IT) could then be launched as a kind of surgical strike on cancer cells. But, as is the case with many new ventures in science, thing

Lisa Holland

Since the discovery of monoclonal antibodies in 1975 (see pages 22 and 29), scientists have attempted to harness their power to bind selectively with substances in the body. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, researchers sought to combine potent cell toxins with a monoclonal antibody that would bind with cancer cells. They believed that the resulting immunotoxin (IT) could then be launched as a kind of surgical strike on cancer cells. But, as is the case with many new ventures in science, things didn't work out quite as smoothly as expected.

"Back in the late 1970s, we thought that any toxin could be bound to any antibody, and the immunotoxin would be potent and specific," recalls Ellen S. Vitetta, director of the Cancer Immunobiology Center at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Early studies, however, quickly indicated that IT therapy involves a variety of complicating factors....

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