§ Mr. Carter-Jones
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether his Department is supporting the development and production of a simple way of applying "immortal" monoclonal antibodies for the identification of certain forms of breast cancer; and if he will make a statement.
§ Dr. Vaughan
[pursuant to his reply, 9 June 1981, c. 75]: The Medical Research Council, the main Government-funded body supporting research in this field, is funding work at Charing Cross hospital on the preparation of monoclonal antibodies to a range of tumour-related antigens. In particular, a monoclonal antibody to carcinoembryonic antigens could in principle be used for the detection of several kinds of tumour including breast cancer.
The major cancer charities are also supporting related investigations. Preliminary studies on the monoclonal antibodies to human breast tissue are being carried out at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund's laboratories and a group at the Ludwig Institute, Sutton, Surrey are independently pursuing work on such antibodies, which they hope to be able to label with radioactive iodine to give a reagent by which breast tumour may be located by the use of scanning techniques. In addition, basic studies on monoclonal antibodies to breast antigens are being carried out at the Cancer Research Campaign laboratories at Nottingham. Recent press reports have referred to progress in this field by teams at Glasgow and Strathclyde and have commented on the potential developments in the diagnostic and treatment fields which could follow. Commercial exploitation is planned.
It is too early to say whether monoclonal antibody techniques will show significant advantages over the more conventional immunological approaches but they are also being developed, and it is premature to speculate at this stage about their possible introduction.