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Blausen Medical

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Esophageal Cancer: Monoclonal Antibody Therapy

Food and liquid pass from the mouth to the stomach through a muscular tube called the esophagus. Sometimes, the cells of the esophagus become cancerous. When the cells of the esophagus divide without order or control, it is called esophageal cancer. There are two types of esophageal cancer: squamous cell cancer and adenocarcinoma. The lining of the esophagus is made up of flat, thin cells called squamous cells. Squamous cell cancer develops in the upper and middle part of the esophagus. In addition to the squamous cells, the esophagus contains glandular cells. The glandular cells make and release mucus and other fluids that help with digestion. If stomach acids back up into the lower part of the esophagus, the acids may irritate the glandular cells causing the cells to change. These changes can lead to cancer in glandular cells, called adenocarcinoma. Symptoms of esophageal cancer include difficulty swallowing, severe weight loss, pain in the throat, back, or behind the breastbone, vomiting, or hoarseness. Esophageal cancer can spread (metastasize) to other organs in the body. Surgery is the most common treatment for either type of esophageal cancer. Radiation and chemotherapy may also be used. New types of treatments, such as laser therapy and photodynamic therapy may be used to ease symptoms. New immunotherapy agents can also target the tumor cells. The immune system is an important line of defense against tumors. Cancerous tumors are made up of many abnormal cells that multiply faster than normal. This causes them to grow into masses that can be malignant. Because they are abnormal, the molecules they produce, called antigens, do not match the molecules that normal cells make. When immune cells capture these antigens, they recognize that they are different and possibly a threat, which causes them to seek out other immune cells in the body. It will find a specific white blood cell and show it the captured antigen. The white blood cell has special receptors on its surface that allow it to remember this potential threat. It is activated and ready to attack any cells that have that specific antigen on its surface. Many activated white blood cells are recruited and travel to the tumor to defend the body. When the white blood cell arrives at a tumor cell, it binds to the surface to check whether or not it is a threat. If it recognizes the antigen, that is a signal for the white blood cell to attack the abnormal cell and kill it. More recruited white blood cells help to destroy the tumor, one cell at a time. The white blood cells have an off-switch receptor to prevent them from attacking normal, healthy cells in the body. Because the immune system is so efficient, it is important that it does not begin turning against the body’s own cells by mistake. Normal cells that might otherwise be targeted by white blood cells can bind to the receptor with ligands that send a stop signal and act as a safety checkpoint to turn off the white blood cell before it attacks. When the receptor binds to its ligands on these cells, it will read it as familiar, even if there are unfamiliar antigens on the surface. However, some tumor cells can use this safety checkpoint to their advantage. They display a lot of the two matching ligands. The amount of these ligands creates a stop signal so strong that when the receptor binds to them, the white blood cell mistakes the tumor cell as healthy and normal, even if it sees the abnormal antigen. This acts like an off-switch and the white blood cell will stop attacking. In a tumor, many of the abnormal cells may be able to avoid detection this way. This results in the immune system no longer recognizing the threat, so the tumor will continue to grow. Monoclonal antibodies are a type of therapy and are made to stick to a specific molecule. In this case, the monoclonal antibody is designed to bind to the misleading markers on the surface of the tumor cell. When the white blood cell binds, it no longer recognizes those off-switch markers—it only recognizes the abnormal antigen. This blocks the tumor cell’s attempt to hide and allows the white blood cell to remain activated. Now that the white blood cell recognizes that the tumor cell is a threat to the body, it will attack and destroy it. As more tumor cells are destroyed, this can stop the spread of cancer by reducing metastatic growth in your body. Your doctor will be able to scan your body to see the improvement.

Duration: 05:34
Licence: CC - Attribution
Original Language: English
Published: 2/14/2018
Diseases and Conditions: Cancer
Format: 3D Animation

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Esophageal Cancer: Monoclonal Antibody Therapy

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