Personalised cancer medicine using the human protein atlas and affibodies

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Published: 26 Jun 2014
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Prof Mathias Uhlén - Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Stockholm, Sweden

Dr Uhlén talks to ecancertv at WIN 2014 about his work creating the human protein atlas and the development of novel antibodies called affibodies.

I will talk about the protein atlas and where we are. We will release the first draft of the tissue atlas later this year in November. I want to give some highlights about where we are and how that can be related to cancer research. I will also talk about a new type of therapeutics called affibodies which is a sort of protein scaffold that gives a very nice alternative to the traditional drugs that are on the market today.

Can you tell us more about the protein atlas project?

The protein atlas project was funded by a non-profit organisation in Sweden, the Wallenberg Foundation, and we have now been working ten years with groups in China, in South Korea, in India as well as here in Europe and also with collaborations with American colleagues. We are now ready to launch the first draft of the complete tissue atlas with more than 90% of the proteins characterised. This is a focus on normal biology so which proteins are in the kidney and the brain and in the liver, but obviously this has also consequences because these are the proteins that some of them are also over-expressed in cancer and other diseases.

What are affibodies and how can they help people with cancer?

Affibodies is an alternative to antibodies which are used in a lot of the newly developed cancer therapies. The affibodies are not only good as therapeutics but they can also be used for bio-imaging, PET and SPECT scans, whole body scans, where you can get very good details about where the cancer is but also where metastases are. We feel that they are excellent compounds for personalised medicine in the cancer field.

What data have you presented?

I will show some of the results from biomarker discovery in plasma but also in tissue. What we’re trying to find is markers that will give us some sort of prediction of what type of therapy you should use for a patient. This is based on antibodies, on basically immunopathology or immunodiagnostics. But I will also say a little bit about the molecular type of analysis we are doing, especially on the RNA level in both normal tissues but also in cancers.

How should this influence clinical practice?

We hope, of course, that the biomarkers that we are developing will make a change for future patients but maybe more importantly is that we hope that this protein atlas will be a basis for everyone that is trying to understand the molecular constituents of the human body, including the molecular constituents of the cancers. So hopefully this is a basic database that everyone can use in their efforts to try to make better treatments for patients in the future.