Journal article Open Access

Immunotoxin Treatment of Cancer *

Pastan, Ira; Hassan, Raffit; FitzGerald, David J.; Kreitman, Robert J.

Immunotoxins are proteins used to treat cancer that are composed of an antibody fragment linked to a toxin. The immunotoxin binds to a surface antigen on a cancer cell, enters the cell by endocytosis, and kills it. The most potent immunotoxins are made from bacterial and plant toxins. Refinements over many years have produced recombinant immunotoxins; these therapeutic proteins are made using protein engineering. Individual immunotoxins are designed to treat specific cancers. To date, most success has been achieved treating hematologic tumors. Obstacles to successful treatment of solid tumors include poor penetration into tumor masses and the immune response to the toxin component of the immunotoxin, which limits the number of cycles that can be given. Strategies to overcome these limitations are being pursued.
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