The goal of my interdisciplinary cancer research project is to use chemical synthesis techniques to make biological antibody-like molecules for use in cancer therapy. Antibodies are already used for cancer treatment and are one of the body’s natural strategies for fighting infections and removing damaged cells. They comprise two functional regions: an ‘antigen-binding’ region, which specifically recognizes proteins on foreign or defective cells, and an ‘effector’ region, which attracts the immune system to destroy them. The result is that foreign or defective cells are destroyed with minimal damage to normal tissue.
Chemical synthesis techniques can be used to make ‘binder’ and ‘effector’ peptides that have the same respective functions. Our novel approach is to join two or more of the ‘binder’ and ‘effector’ peptides together via a linker to make a ‘synthetic antibody’. Using chemical synthesis allows for precise control over the molecules and the flexibility to design and optimize how they bind to proteins on cancer cells. Furthermore, the strategy of linking various binders and effectors together gives us the versatility to make synthetic antibodies that bind to more than one cancer target protein, thereby increasing the specificity and ensuring that normal cells are not targeted. In my project, I aim to develop new chemical methods for linking binder and effector peptides so that we can understand more about how they work together and improve the specificity and activity of synthetic antibodies as novel cancer therapies.