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Spider silk allows more powerful and effective cancer treatments

Cheaper and more effective cancer treatments were the outcome when researchers used spider silk when imitating the immune system. KTH is the only university in the world that can make spider silk that also has a biological function.

My Hedhammar, professor i bioteknologi

Using antibodies to combat cancer is one of the most effective methods currently in use. The antibodies identify and mark the cancer cells, which helps the immune system to fight the disease. However, the treatments are short-lived and very costly. Researchers at KTH are developing a method that can both control the treatment better and prolong its effect.

The method uses spider silk to imitate the immune system's way of attacking an alien cell. Spider silk is elastic and consists of the same kind of molecules that are already present in the human body. When the antibodies are attached to a piece of spider silk, they can be made to interact in a way that kick-starts the immune system.

Inexpensive treatments 

Solitary antibodies are broken down within just a few hours but because it takes weeks to break down spider silk, with this method, significantly more effective, long-lasting and inexpensive treatments are possible. Moreover, this sort of antibody treatment will be available to far more patients than is currently the case.

There is another advantage with this method compared with a lone attack on the immune system, namely, that cancer cells can adapt to immune cells but not to spider silk. This increases the immune system's ability to attack both solid tumours and other forms of cancer circulating in the body.

Key persons

My Hedhammar, Professor of Biotechnology, has invented this unique method of producing spider silk with biological properties.

KTH's initiative

We have a unique method whereby current antibody treatments for cancer will be made more powerful and effective. By using spider silk as a way of transporting antibodies, treatments can be significantly more long-lasting, cost-effective and available to far more patients than is the case today.

Why KTH?

For this project to be successful, strong multidisciplinary collaboration is needed. Three different research teams at KTH are currently working on the project, all three of which are highly prominent in their fields. They collaborate closely with colleagues doing clinical research at Karolinska Institutet. KTH is currently the only university in the world that is able to manufacture spider silk with biological functions. 

How will we achieve our goals?

KTH already has the necessary infrastructure in place. Funding is now needed for about four researchers, some at senior level, others at doctoral student level. The project is currently working on cell trials which are estimated to be completed in about one year’s time. After that, work on preclinical studies can begin. The trials focus on different forms of leukaemia, blood cancer, and will be further developed to work on other types of cancer as well. 

Page responsible:Sofia Tatsis
Belongs to: About KTH
Last changed: Jul 07, 2020