Perspective

Empowering Targeted Therapy: Lessons from Rituximab

STKE  13 Jul 2004:
Vol. 2004, Issue 241, pp. pe30
DOI: 10.1126/stke.2412004pe30

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Abstract

Rituximab, a monoclonal antibody directed against the B cell–specific protein CD20, has revolutionized lymphoma treatment by providing a highly effective form of therapy with relatively mild toxic side effects. Effective as a single agent against some forms of B cell lymphoma, rituximab also has a chemosensitizing effect, enhancing the efficacy of chemotherapy against other forms of the disease. Although the mechanisms whereby rituximab achieves its effects remain incompletely understood, these seem to involve at least three distinct phenomena: (i) antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity, (ii) complement-mediated cell lysis, and (iii) stimulation of apoptosis in target cells. The latter occurs through interaction of complexes of rituximab and CD20 in lipid rafts, with elements of a signaling pathway involving Src kinases. Effector molecules trigger various gene expression events, leading to sensitization of malignant cells to proapoptotic stimuli. Lessons learned from the research on rituximab may be applied to the rational development of antibody-based therapies against other forms of cancer.

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