This image shows cancerous B cells that have been treated with rituximab. The protein CD20 (shown in green) has been drawn to the side of the cells. When the
|Scooped by Graham Player Ph.D.|
The drug rituximab is effective at killing cancerous B cells. It is widely used in the treatment of B cell malignancies, such as lymphoma and leukaemia.
Using high-powered laser-based microscopes, researchers made videos of the process by which rituximab binds to a diseased cancer cell and then attracts white blood cells known as natural killer (NK) cells to attack.
They discovered that rituximab tended to stick to one side of the cancer B cells, creating a cluster of protein molecules on one side. When the NK cell latched onto the cluster of protein molecules, it had an 80% success rate at killing the cell. In contrast, when the B cell lacked this cluster of proteins on one side, it was killed only 40% of the time.
To me there are two important realizations here. One is the advantage technology gives us at being able to analyze processes and details at the micro level. The other is the confirmation of the importance of our own immune system in producing white blood cells (NK cells) to attack the cancer. It would tend to support the theory that using high dosage chemotherapy in the treatment of cancer which destroys the immune system may not be the right approach.