Fatal attraction

Celltech Antibody Centre of Excellence, the University of Durham and Oxford Instruments Molecular Biotools are to develop the first UK antibody-targeted magnetotherapy technology, a potentially new approach for cancer therapy.

The alliance, which is based on a two-year relationship between the companies, brings into play science that the organisations say has previously never been used in pharmaceuticals.

Celltech’s targeted antibody technology will deliver inert nanoparticles to tumours that subsequently are treated by application of a controlled external magnetic field. Celltech 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.

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 the application.

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.

Oxford Instruments’ experience in the generation of magnetic environments will be key to understanding the forces required and their duration with a variety of different particles to optimise the efficacy of the technique.