Monoclonal antibodies as a strategy to fight cancer

In this exclusive Q&A, Dr Veysel Kayser, Associate Professor at the University of Sydney, Australia, outlines why monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) are such an important tool to combat cancer. He also relates his recent research, as well as the latest trends in the industry.

Why do mAbs represent such promise in the fight against cancer?

Traditional approaches in the treatment of cancer such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy are not sufficiently specific and consequently healthy cells/tissues can also be affected. The target specificity of therapeutic mAbs, however, makes them ideal drug candidates in the fight against cancer and hence therapeutic mAbs have become the top-selling drugs in the last few decades. This target specificity means we do not observe similar side effects as with chemotherapy agents. In addition, many cancer types share common biomarkers (eg, EGFR) and thus a mAb that is specific for a biomarker can be used for other types of cancers too, provided the same target is overexpressed. They are also quite versatile;1 for example, they can be engineered as antibody-drug-conjugates (ADCs) wherein they act as a drug delivery vehicle to carry highly potent cytotoxic agents safely to their target. Another format of mAbs is bispecifics, which engage with two different targets – one could be a cancer cell and the other an immune cell. This approach has been a very promising method for dealing with certain types of cancers. There are various other mAb-based formats too, although they are yet to be approved by regulatory agencies.1