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