NewsLocal News

Actions

Wisconsin researchers look to sharks to improve cancer detection and treatment

Dr. LeBeau's research is focused on cancers, but during the pandemic, his team found their work could help in the fight against coronaviruses.
IMG_6087.jpg
Posted at 6:18 PM, Aug 23, 2022

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin researchers have turned to sharks to develop new ways to detect and treat cancer.

Dr. Aaron LeBeau, an associate professor of pathology and radiology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has been leading the research.

"We are the only people doing this type of research in the world," LeBeau said.

FullSizeRender (1).jpg
Wisconsin researchers have turned to sharks to develop new ways to detect and treat cancer.

The goal is to be able to better detect and treat cancers, allowing health teams to handle the disease more effectively.

LeBeau explained that one of the big hurdles in drug development is being able to accurately assess disease burden and a patient with metastatic cancer.

Nurse sharks help Madison researchers on cancer

"Sharks have these antibodies that are very very small. They have these unique structures that allow them to bind antigens, proteins on the surface of cancer cells in ways that our human antibodies cannot," LeBeau said.

Currently, the study includes five male nurse sharks being kept on campus.

FullSizeRender.jpg
Wisconsin researchers have turned to sharks to develop new ways to detect and treat cancer.

"We draw their blood once a month for about four to six months to monitor the production of antibodies in their blood," LeBeau said. "We have very promising results thus far with the sharks primarily in lung cancer."

Dr. LeBeau's research is focused on cancers, but during the pandemic, his team found their work could help in the fight against coronaviruses.

Sharks and cancer research in Wisconsin

"We were able to develop a suite of shark antibodies that could neutralize COVID-19 and all of its variants," LeBeau stated, adding that their findings were published in a manuscript last year.

The shark research is happening thanks in part to donations and the UW Carbone Cancer Center.

IMG_6093.jpg
Wisconsin researchers have turned to sharks to develop new ways to detect and treat cancer.

"The beauty about shark antibodies is they can target cancer cells specifically unlike human antibodies. So we have what are called less off-target effects. Off-target effects result in toxicity. It’s quite possible that these sharks can develop therapies that will reduce toxicity associated with cancer treatments," LeBeau explained. "You want to cure cancer but you also don’t wanna make a patient sick. It's possible this is going to have a dramatic impact on patient quality of life and ultimately making cancer a manageable disease."

Report a typo or error // Submit a news tip