Monoclonal antibodies (MAb) are a hot topic in research these days, and there are almost 300 MAb under development for treatment of a wide variety of diseases. An area of medicine that was once reserved for “Star Trek” characters has become reality, and you don’t have to be a science fiction fan to appreciate this intriguing new approach.
What exactly is a MAb and why are they interesting? Antibodies are specialized proteins and an important component of our immune systems. Antibodies find and target specific molecules on the surface of cells and then attract other members of the immune system to attack and destroy the target. Scientists now have the capability to make a large number of exact copies of a single antibody aimed at a specific target, and these copies are called Monoclonal antibodies. The antibody itself can be used to interfere with an unwanted cell or function, or an additional drug can be attached to the antibody, which is then used like a guided missile to deliver the treatment directly to the target. Because these MAb are designed to reach a specific target, they can hunt down a certain type of cell or molecule and directly affect that mark with fewer unwanted side effects on other tissues.
As with all new treatments, drugs based on Mab technology undergo rigorous testing first in the lab and then ultimately in clinical trials before making it to market. You may already know someone who has benefitted from Mab’s - Humira or Symponi for inflammatory disease, Xolair for asthma, and Herceptin for breast cancer are all examples of MAb-based treatments. Our encore sites are excited to be active participants in the drug development process and to offer our patients the opportunity to be involved in Mab clinical trials for rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, high cholesterol, peripheral vascular disease, and prevention of cardiovascular events – and more to come!