The University of Toronto
Therapeutic potential of variable lymphocyte receptor antibodies
Conventional antibodies play an increasingly important role in cancer therapy because of their ability to bind to target cells with very high specificity. However, it remains a great challenge to identify targets that are uniquely expressed on cancer cells so as to avoid damage to non-cancer cells. The recently identified variable lymphocyte receptor (VLR) antibodies of the evolutionarily distant sea lamprey provide an equally diverse and specific antibody system. However, the structure of VLR antibodies is radically distinct from the commonly used mammalian antibodies. Various studies have demonstrated that the antibody-antigen interactions of VLR antibodies are different from those of conventional antibodies and that they interact with structures not easily recognized by conventional antibodies. Humanization of VLR antibodies will provide a strategy to take advantage of the highly specific recognition of targets which conventional antibodies may not be able to bind. The ultimate goal of our research is to harness the unique VLR antibodies of the sea lamprey as a novel therapy aimed at treating cancer.