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The Lock and Key of MedicineMonoclonal Antibodies and the Transformation of Healthcare$
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Lara V Marks

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780300167733

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300167733.001.0001

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Joy, Disappointment, Determination

Joy, Disappointment, Determination

Early Clinical Tests

(p.88) Chapter Five Joy, Disappointment, Determination
The Lock and Key of Medicine

Lara V. Marks

Yale University Press

This chapter considers the development of monoclonal antibodies (Mabs) for cancer treatment. In the early 1980s, many scientists were optimistic that Mabs would defeat cancer. In 1982, John Minna of the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) predicted that Mabs would revolutionize cancer diagnosis within five years. The adoption of Mabs as probes for targeting and identifying the multitude of antigens on different cell types seemed to herald their use in detecting and classifying tumors on a hitherto unthinkable scale. Mabs also promised to deliver more precisely powerful tumor-cell-killing agents, such as chemotherapeutic drugs, radioactive isotopes, or toxins, and to provide a way of harnessing a patient's immune system to attack tumors. However, work in the cancer field proved less straightforward than anticipated, partly because much of the initial endeavor was undertaken by researchers in academic laboratories and clinics with limited resources. Funded by government and charitable sources, their work had only minimal support from industry. In addition, new cancer drugs faced stiff regulatory and ethical tests.

Keywords:   cancer treatment, Mabs, monoclonal antibodies, antigens, cancer research

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