Findings About Dostarlimab, A New Antibody Drug, Very Encouraging, Says Expert In Cancer Treatment

According to New York Times, in a small clinical trial, 18 patients took a drug called Dostarlimab for around six months, and in the end, every one of them saw their tumours disappear. The findings concerning dostarlimab, an antibody drug, in experimental treatment of rectal cancer patients is very encouraging but there is need for long-term studies to understand the real impact, an expert in cancer treatment has said.

“This new trial at MSKCC in a small number of patients, with locally advanced rectal cancer patients who had MMR (MisMatch repair) deficiency, have shown total disappearance of tumour without any additional treatment in all 100 percent of them. This is very encouraging but we must note that long term studies are required to understand the real impact,” Dr. (Col.) R. Ranga Rao, Chairman, Oncology, of Paras Hospitals in Gurugram said.

“The drug is still investigational and the trial is limited to patients of a specific type , that constitute about 4 to 5 per cent of rectal cancers. While this is highly encouraging, we must not prematurely jump to conclusions that we have found a cure for all cancers, all stages, and no chemotherapy, surgery is ever required,” he added.

He said it is well recognized that Immunotherapy with PDL 1 blockers in MMRd patients is effective. “Already immunotherapy has made a big difference in the field of cancer of all types. Several earlier trials have shown encouraging responses,” Dr Rao said.

In what appears to be a miracle and ‘first time in history’, a small clinical trial has found that every single rectal cancer patient who received an experimental treatment found that their cancer had vanished.

According to New York Times, in the small clinical trial conducted by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, 18 patients took a drug called Dostarlimab for around six months, and in the end, every one of them saw their tumours disappear. Dr Luis A. Diaz J. of New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) said this was “the first time this has happened in the history of cancer”.

According to experts, Dostarlimab is a drug with laboratory-produced molecules and it acts as substitute antibodies in the human body. The cancer is undetectable by physical exam; endoscopy; positron emission tomography or PET scans or MRI scans, added Experts. This proves that Dostarlimab can be a ‘potential’ cure for one of the most deadly common cancers.

According to New York Times, patients involved in the clinical trial earlier underwent treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, and invasive surgery that could result in bowel, urinary, and even sexual dysfunction. The 18 patients went into the trial expecting to have to go through these procedures as the next step. However, to their surprise, no further treatment was needed.

The findings of this trial have shocked experts and they have pointed out that complete remission in every single patient is “unheard-of”. Dr Alan P. Venook, who is a colorectal cancer specialist at the University of California, said that the complete remission in every single patient is “unheard-of”. He hailed the research as a “world-first”. Experts stated that the research was impressive as not all of the patients suffered significant complications from the drug trial.

Critics:

Tesaro, a biotech company based out of Massachusetts developed the drug. Tesaro was acquired by GlaxoSmithKline in 2019, dostarlimab is also known by the brand name Jemparli. Dostarlimab was developed to treat women with recurrent or advanced endometrial cancer.

On August 17, 2021, the FDA approved dostarlimab-gxly (brand name Jemperli) for adult patients with mismatch repair-deficient recurrent or advanced solid tumours, as determined by an FDA-approved test, that have progressed on or following prior treatment and who have no satisfactory alternative treatment options.

Rectal cancer remission

According to reports, 18 patients in the clinical trial took Dostarlimab for around six months and after over 12 months the doctors found that their cancer disappeared. While it’s a small trial so far, the results have been impressive; they were published in The New England Journal of Medicine and featured at the nation’s largest gathering of clinical oncologists in June 2022.


In every case, rectal cancer disappeared after immunotherapy — without the need for the standard treatments of radiation, surgery, or chemotherapy — and cancer has not returned in any of the patients, who have been cancer-free for up to two years.

It’s incredibly rewarding to get these happy tears and happy emails from the patients in this study who finish treatment and realise, ‘Oh my God, I get to keep all my normal body functions that I feared I might lose to radiation or surgery,’ expressed Dr Andrea Cercek, Medical Oncologist, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK).

Dr Cercek added, “The most exciting part of this is that every single one of our patients has only needed immunotherapy. We haven’t radiated anybody, and we haven’t put anybody through surgery.” She continued, “They have preserved normal bowel function, bladder function, sexual function, fertility. Women have their uterus and ovaries. It’s remarkable.”

This clinical trial could pave the way for treating other forms of cancer in the future. As the trial continues at MSK, Dr Luis Alberto Diaz, Medical Oncologist, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) said, “It’s the tip of the iceberg.” He explains, “We are investigating if this same method may help other cancers where the treatments are often life-altering and tumours can be MMRd. We are currently enrolling patients with gastric (stomach), prostate, and pancreatic cancers.”

Dostarlimab clinical trial reception by the Indian medical community

Since the trial results have been published, it has created a lot of buzz and has got the entire medical community discussing how it could pave the path for future treatment for various cancers, ETHealthWorld spoke to few experts on the drug trial. Commenting on the trial, “It is definitely a big step towards efficient cancer care. The preliminary data on Dostarlimab PD1 monotherapy has been very encouraging in high-risk rectal cancer patients and has been recently presented at the ASCO meeting in Chicago and subsequently published in NEJM.

We would definitely need further studies on larger groups of patients across the globe to establish it as a standard of care for rectal cancer. Trials are also being conducted to study its effectiveness for cervical cancer, and endometrial cancer amongst others,” said Dr Pankaj Kumar Panda, Senior Research Officer, Apollo Proton Cancer Centre.

Source: Findings about Dostarlimab, a new antibody drug, very encouraging, says expert in cancer treatment

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Scientists are Studying Blood Tests For Dementia

As pharmaceutical companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, other researchers are focusing on a more elemental question. How can you tell whether a family member or loved one has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia?

These researchers say a new generation of blood tests could offer an easier and accurate way to detect signs of Alzheimer’s, a disease that afflicts an estimated 6.5 million Americans. New research found one blood test can detect hallmarks of the disease in older adults with memory problems. It is among more than a half dozen blood tests being developed and tested to detect early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Experts say the tests are important because they would be easier, cheaper and available to more people than brain scans or spinal taps now used to detect biological hallmarks of the disease.

Developers of blood tests say the immediate payoff would be testing older adults with signs of memory loss as well as quickly screening large numbers of people necessary to test new drugs that aim to slow or halt Alzheimer’s disease. Eventually, the tests might be useful in detecting the earliest signs of disease, informing individuals of their risk years before memory and thinking problems take root.

Blood tests represent “a very early start to a new era of diagnosis for Alzheimer’s disease,” said Stephen Salloway, a professor of neurology and psychiatry at Brown University who directs a memory and aging program at Butler Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island. “I see them as being transformative for Alzheimer’s, because once we validate them a little bit further, and hopefully get coverage for them, we can use them both to screen for clinical trials and to screen for treatment.”

Diagnosing the disease is time-consuming and inaccessible to those who live far away from memory clinics or other specialists. Doctors might quiz a patient or family members about habits, changes in behavior or personality. Specialists conduct memory and cognitive tests and rule out other potential causes such as depression. Brain scans and spinal taps confirm biological signs of the disease.

One blood test, called the PrecivityAD test, which uses a technology called mass spectrometry, measures amyloid proteins and genetic risk for the disease. In two studies published April 21 in Journal of the American Medical Association Open, the test accurately detected the protein amyloid in 81% of samples when compared with a brain scan.

Amyloid accumulates and forms clumps in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients. Researchers and drug companies have spent hundreds of million of dollars over the past two decades on the theory that drugs clearing amyloid from the brain could slow memory decline, but those drugs have not proven to halt Alzheimer’s disease.

Other drug studies are now underway to administer amyloid-targeting drugs even earlier, before memory and thinking problems emerge. C2N Diagnostics CEO Joel Braunstein said the peer-reviewed study is an important step for doctors who want to see more evidence before recommending his company’s test to patients with memory and cognitive problems.

“Clinicians like to see evidence that a test works,” Braunstein said. “This was an important step forward because of the transparency of the scientific findings.”

The test, which has been available since 2020, is now mostly used to accelerate research for new drugs being studied to slow cognitive decline and memory loss in people with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Braunstein believes more doctors will be willing to recommend the test as they grow comfortable from findings in the studies.

Blood tests promise quicker, cheaper diagnosis

Scans and spinal taps now used can be invasive and don’t work for all patients. For example, people who are on blood-thinning medication might not be able to get a spinal tap, Salloway said. In such cases, a validated blood test would be suitable replacement.

Blood tests also might be more affordable than positron emission tomography, or PET scans, which cost consumers $3,000 out of pocket, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Hospitals charge for administering a PET scan, which includes special chemical tracers to reveal the amyloid. Consumers also can expect a bill from an imaging specialist who interprets the results to verify whether a patient has amyloid.

The PrecivityAD test, which is not yet covered by Medicare or private insurers, costs $1,250. The company offers financial assistance for eligible consumers, Braunstein said, while it is “making progress” in efforts to get Medicare and private insurers to pay for the test.

The company is allowed to market the test under Food and Drug Administration rules because it’s performed at the company’s lab, which is certified under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments, the federal laboratory law known as CLIA. Doctors or testing sites ship samples to the lab and the company completes the test within 10 days, Braunstein said.

Braunstein said the company’s lab has the capacity to handle tests performed within the United States and Canada. As the company seeks to offer the test overseas, it probably will partner with other labs that can perform the intricate measurements the test requires.

Another blood test developed by Eli Lilly detected signs of Alzheimer’s disease 20 years before cognitive problems were expected in a group of people who carry a rare genetic mutation, according to a study published in 2020 in JAMA. The p-tau217 test measured the tau protein on more than 1,400 people already enrolled in dementia studies in Sweden, Arizona and Colombia.

Eli Lilly used the test during a 257-patient Phase 2 study of its Alzheimer’s drug called donanemab. The drugmaker also will use the test to screen people for a prevention trial to test donanemab in at-risk patients who have not yet exhibited memory and thinking problems. Lilly plans to send mobile units to communities and use the test to screen people, which would expand the company’s efforts to recruit patients from diverse populations, a Lilly spokeswoman said.

Quest Diagnostics, a national lab company, launched a new blood test in March that measures two amyloid variants, a Quest spokeswoman said.

Advocacy organizations would like to see tests that are simple, inexpensive and accessible to doctors and their patients, said Heather Snyder, vice president of medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer’s Association.

“We ultimately want to be at a place where we can identify an individual at the earliest possible point who may be at the greatest risk and may have initial changes associated with the disease,” Snyder said.

She said it’s important for the field to have “a toolbox of potential interventions” such as medications or lifestyle changes “that would allow us to stop or slow the progression of the underlying biology at that time.”

In 2021, the Food and Drug Administration approved Biogen’s Aduhelm, a $28,000-a-year drug that yielded mixed results in clinical trials, even though the agency’s own experts suggested the agency reject the application. The agency that oversees Medicare decided to pay for the drug only in clinical trials.

Aduhelm is part of class of Alzheimer’s drugs known as monoclonal antibodies, several of which could soon land before FDA decision-makers. Lilly expects to submit donanemab, a monoclonal antibody, for approval later this year. Roche’s Genentech has studied two Alzheimer’s drugs, gantenerumab and crenezumab, in late-stage clinical trials.

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Source: Scientists are studying blood tests for dementia: ‘A new era of diagnosis for Alzheimer’s disease’

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Why Some People Get COVID More Than Once


Although the federal government does not collect data on COVID reinfections, and nor do health authorities in WA and Queensland, Victoria recorded almost 10,000 reinfections between late December 2021 and late March 2022. This compares with just 108 known reinfections in Victoria during the previous two years. NSW plans to release state reinfection data soon.

As the Omicron sub-variant BA.2 continues to fuel more infections, the spectre of repeat infections is well and truly upon us. Current vaccines were designed to protect against the original strain of SARS-CoV-2, and while the shots are crucial in shielding us from severe illness and death, they are less effective in preventing infection by newer variants.

 Unfortunately, natural immunity gained from a Delta infection also won’t stop us getting infected with Omicron. We learnt this with the rise of Omicron in South Africa late last year, when a population with relatively high natural immunity from previous coronavirus infections still fell victim to the merciless Omicron wave.

Reinfections have become something of a hallmark of Omicron. Since the rise of this highly transmissible strain, the number of people reinfected with coronavirus has spiked, in a pattern that is unique to the strain. Imperial College London researchers estimate a reinfection with Omicron is 5.4 times greater than with the Delta variant.

A letter published in The New England Journal of Medicine indicated that a previous COVID-19 infection was 90 per cent effective at preventing an infection with the Alpha, Beta or Delta variants, but only 56 per cent effective against Omicron.

In England, where Omicron has driven a spike in reinfections, provisional data from the UK Health Security Agency shows 10.7 per cent of all positive COVID-19 cases were reinfections in the last week of March.

The data shows that the number of weekly reinfections jumped from 20,000 to 50,000 in just one month, with reinfections occurring across all age groups, despite high vaccination levels. (A reinfection was counted when someone tested positive on two tests taken more than 90 days apart.)

Waning immunity is playing a part, along with the easing of restrictions. But the potent variable here is the rise of the BA.2 variant of Omicron, which is rapidly becoming the dominant strain globally.

A non-peer reviewed Swedish study suggests Omicron BA.2 could be more contagious than the original BA.1 strain due to its higher viral loads in the nose and throat. (The first case of a new recombinant variant combining BA.1 and BA.2, known as XE, was detected in New South Wales on April 9. Watch this space.)

The good news as far as reinfections go, is that catching the same variant twice is fairly unlikely. So if you got sick with Omicron BA.1, you’re probably in the clear when it comes to catching BA.2.

A more likely scenario is being reinfected after having Delta or an earlier strain. You’re more likely again to get infected if you’ve had no prior COVID infection at all, and that likelihood increases further if you’re unvaccinated.

While reinfection is no fun, the plus side is that it gives you excellent immunity when coupled with vaccination. The combination triggers a broader range of antibody and white cell responses in your system, meaning you are less likely to suffer serious illness on reinfection.

A preprint study from Qatar confirms that the best defence against Omicron BA.1 or BA.2 infections is a prior infection plus two vaccinations and a booster shot. This reduces the risk of infection by 77 per cent, compared with 52 per cent if you got three doses but had no prior infection, the study found.

Senior research fellow at the Kirby Institute’s infection analytics program Dr Deborah Cromer says COVID-19 may follow the trajectory of other respiratory viruses, such as the flu, when it comes to reinfection.

“People will get the flu once, but that doesn’t mean they won’t get the flu again,” she says. “They probably won’t get the flu twice in one season, but obviously, there are people who do. And if you’ve had the flu vaccine, it doesn’t mean you won’t get the flu, but your symptoms will probably be less severe.

“I think what we’re talking about is a respiratory virus that will keep changing, but if people’s immunity levels keep being maintained at a high level, then it should hopefully not be too severe.”

That’s pretty much how the 1918 Spanish flu petered out. The first couple of years of that pandemic were the worst in terms of severe sickness and death, but as the virus changed and spread over the following decades, it continued to infect people but was far less dangerous.

The key problem in Australia, though, is a lack of good data. As more people rely on rapid-antigen tests, there are fewer samples available for sequencing. ANU infectious diseases physician Peter Collignon says we need systematic surveillance to monitor infections and genomic sequencing to better understand how reinfections will impact us.

“Instead of having a one in 1000 chance of dying, is there one in 10,000 if you’re reinfected? What’s your chance of getting into hospital? And how is it proportionate to your socio-economic condition and your age? We need that sort of data to be able to plan for the future.”

Timna Jacks

By: Timna Jacks

Source: Why some people get COVID more than once

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How Omicron Upended What We Thought We Knew About Natural Immunity

After dizzily swelling for weeks, COVID-19 cases seem to be leveling off in New York and Chicago. In the greater Boston area, the amount of SARS-CoV-2 found in wastewater is going down as quickly as it had gone up. The hard part isn’t over yet, but the omicron wave is starting to break and roll back out to sea. Soon we’ll see if any treasures are left behind in the tide pool.

Between Dec. 1 and Jan. 17, at least 18 million Americans contracted COVID. Data suggests that the vast majority of those cases were in unvaccinated people, but plenty of people who got their primary series of the vaccine also caught the immunity-evading omicron variant. By the time this wave is over, American bodies will know this virus like never before. But will the survivors gain anything from having had the disease? After all, there will be more variants in the future. Could the hard-earned immunity we’ve gained from omicron help fight them off? Could this wave be the last?

On Monday, White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci said it’s too soon to answer these questions. Scientists we spoke to agreed. But they also said the reason these questions were so difficult to answer was because of an issue that hasn’t always gotten much attention in the public sphere:

The immunity provided by a COVID infection itself. Scientists have learned a lot about this “natural immunity” since the pandemic began. But omicron has upended many of those expectations, and the more we learn about this variant, the less clear it is what we should expect for the future of the virus and our immunity to it.

Scientists have been studying infection-induced immunity since COVID first emerged. In fact, it was the only kind of immunity anyone could really study at that point, said John Moore, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Cornell University’s Weill Cornell Medical College. And while there are now many more studies on vaccine-induced immunity thanks to clinical trials and easily trackable vaccinated populations like medical staff, there’s a lot that can be said about natural immunity, pre-omicron, with a reasonable amount of certainty.

One important takeaway from all that pre-omicron research: Infection-induced immunity and vaccine-induced immunity are pretty similar. On the whole, studies found that the efficacy of infection-induced immunity was about the same as what you’d get from a two-dose mRNA vaccine, and sometimes higher.

For example, research from the U.K., in which a few hundred thousand participants were followed in a large-scale longitudinal survey, found that prior to May 16, having had two doses of the vaccine (regardless of the type) reduced the risk of testing positive by 79 percent, while being unvaccinated and having had a previous infection reduced the risk by 65 percent. After the delta variant became dominant,1 vaccination became less effective, reducing the risk by 67 percent, while a previous infection reduced the risk by 71 percent.

Likewise, both kinds of immunity seemed to wane over time — though Moore said infection-induced immunity might take longer to decline because a vaccination happens nearly all at once, while an infection takes longer to go through a process of growing, declining and finally being cleared from the body. “But it’s also not radically different [from antibody titers to vaccination]. It’s not measured in years, but months,” he said.

This is why some countries, including the member states of the European Union, treat documented recovery from COVID-19 as functionally the same as vaccination in their “vaccine passport” systems.

Still, vaccine-induced immunity is a better choice, not because it produces a stronger immunity, but because it enables you to get the immunity without the side effects and risks that come along with illness — like a greater risk of stillbirth if you’re pregnant, or long COVID, hospitalization and death in general.

The pre-omicron research also indicated another downside to natural immunity: namely, that it can be more variable. All immunity differs from person to person and holds up better against some variants than others. But infection-induced immunity can also be more or less effective depending on how severe your case of COVID was, explained John Dennehy, a professor of biology at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center.

Since the earliest studies, scientists have found evidence that more severe illnesses produce a higher antibody response, while mild cases end up producing much less.

Then came omicron. The public desire for information on omicron is moving faster than science can produce, but we do know that this variant escapes natural immunity as easily as it does vaccine immunity. Omicron carries a lot of mutations that make it able to evade antibodies — and it doesn’t really matter how you got those antibodies in the first place, said Jeffrey Klausner, a professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine.

Beyond that, the picture is murky. For example, we know milder infections have, with past strains, produced less effective immunity. If a hallmark of omicron is milder infections — and that’s the main reason why there’s so much chatter that it might just be better to get this variant and get some natural immunity — how much immunity can anyone really expect to come out of those mild infections with?

“We’re going to know for sure in a few weeks because a ton of preprint is coming out about it, but I don’t know the answer today,” Moore said. It’s information journalists can come back and update you on later, but it makes informed speculation hard now. (Meanwhile, keep an eye on our COVID-19 research tracker.)

The same holds true when you start trying to parse out what vaccinated people can expect from a breakthrough case of omicron. The combination of vaccine and infection-induced immunity has been shown to produce a hybrid that is probably more effective than either type alone — but, again, that research came from pre-omicron studies. Is a breakthrough case as good as a booster?

If you’re going to get a booster after you’ve had a breakthrough case, how long should you wait? Those are questions scientists don’t have the answers to yet, partly because there’s no clear through line of what to expect once you’re dealing with omicron.

“Maybe your readers are right in being confused, because we don’t really know how long-lasting the immunity you get from omicron will be,” said David Thomas, the director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Which brings us to the biggest question of all: Will the many infections, reinfections and breakthrough infections associated with omicron maybe — finally — put us in a better position for a well-protected, safer society? Maybe even a society that doesn’t have any more big waves crashing on its head?

Theoretically, yes, Klausner told me. And he’s optimistic that it will. Thomas and Dennehy, on the other hand, were more cautious. After all, Dennehy pointed out, there’s no guarantee that future strains will be related to omicron. If omicron is different enough from delta that it evades immunity from that previous variant, what happens if a future variant comes along that’s evolved from delta and not omicron? It’s not unreasonable to expect a whole new wave.

And what does Moore think? He was just ready to take a pause from speculation and get some data before anyone starts making decisions for themselves or for society. “I’m fed up with winging answers to reporters like yourself, because I don’t know the answer,” he said. “None of us know for sure.”

Maggie Koerth

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Maggie Koerth is a senior science writer for FiveThirtyEight.

Source: How Omicron Upended What We Thought We Knew About Natural Immunity | FiveThirtyEight

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Covid Science: Virus Leaves Antibodies That May Attack Healthy Tissues

The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that has yet to be certified by peer review.

Coronavirus leaves survivors with self-attacking antibodies

Months after recovering from SARS-CoV-2 infection, survivors have elevated levels of antibodies that can mistakenly attack their own organs and tissues, even if they had not been severely ill, according to new findings.

Among 177 healthcare workers who had recovered from confirmed coronavirus infections contracted before the availability of vaccines, all had persistent autoantibodies, including ones that can cause chronic inflammation and injury of the joints, skin and nervous system.

“We would not normally expect to see such a diverse array of autoantibodies elevated in these individuals or stay elevated for as long six months after full clinical recovery,” said Susan Cheng of the Cedars-Sinai Smidt Heart Institute in Los Angeles.

Patterns of elevated autoantibodies varied between men and women, the researchers reported on Thursday in the Journal of Translational Medicine.

“We don’t yet know how much longer, beyond six months, the antibodies will stay elevated and/or lead to any important clinical symptoms,” Cheng said. “It will be essential to monitor individuals moving forward.”

Her team is investigating whether autoantibody elevations are linked with persistent symptoms in people with long COVID and planning to study autoantibody levels after infections with newer variants of the virus.

B cells’ effects weakened but not defeated by Omicron. The effects of antibodies produced by the immune system’s “memory B cells” against the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, while weakened, could still be significant, researchers believe.

Once the body learns to recognize SARS-CoV-2, either after infection or vaccination, B cells generate fresh antibodies against the virus if there are not already enough antibodies circulating in the blood that can neutralize it.

In a study reported on bioRxiv ahead of peer review, researchers analyzed the strength of more than 300 antibodies produced by memory B cells obtained from vaccinated volunteers, including some who had a prior SARS-CoV-2 infection.

“Omicron seemed to evade a very large share of the memory B cells pool,” researchers said, adding that it “seems to still be efficiently recognized by 30% of total antibodies and close to 10% of all potent neutralizing antibodies,” said Matthieu Mahevas and Pascal Chappert of Universite de Paris in a joint email. Memory B cells’ robust ability to proliferate and produce antibodies might compensate “in less than two days” for those antibodies’ reduced effectiveness, they speculate.

In combination with other immune system components, particularly T cells, the effects of B cells likely help to explain why most vaccinated individuals who become infected do not become sick enough to require hospitalization, they said.

Virus variants’ activity in cells makes them more effective. Along with spike mutations that help the coronavirus break into cells, mutations that change how the virus behaves inside the cells are a big factor in why some variants have been more transmissible, researchers have discovered.

The findings, published in Nature, show that scientists “have to start looking at mutations outside the spike,” which has so far been the main focus of vaccines and antibody drugs, said Nevan Krogan of the University of California, San Francisco.

Studying the Alpha variant, his team found a mutation at a non-spike site that causes infected cells to ramp up their production of a protein called Orf9B. Orf9b in turn disables a protein called TOM70 that cells use to send signals to the immune system.

With higher levels of Orf9B disabling TOM70, the immune system does not respond as well and the virus can better evade detection, the researchers said.

Referring to the increase in Orf9B, Krogan said, “It’s rare that mutations ‘turn up’ a protein. It’s a very sneaky thing for this virus to do.” The same mutation was identified on Delta, “and sure enough, almost the same mutation is on Omicron,” he said, which suggests they may have similar effects on the immune system. The new information could spur development of drugs that target the interaction of Orf9b and TOM70.

Click for a Reuters graphic on vaccines in development.

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Source: Covid Science: Virus leaves antibodies that may attack healthy tissues | Reuters

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