ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

CD47 - The New Frontier in Cancer Treatment?

Updated on September 14, 2015


CD47 is an abbrevation for the protein named Cluster of Differentiation 47. It is coded in the human gene also known as CD47. It is involved in a wide range of cellular functions, both in cell death, or apoptosis, as well as cell growth, or proliferation. It also plays a role in migration and adhesion.

CD47 also functions in several immune responses. For this reason, it is somewhat ironic that it may be one of the reasons many cancers can be so hard to kill. Normal, healthy cells carry this protein, so the immune system recognizes it as a friendly cell and does not attack. Cancer cells carry higher levels of CD47 than healthy cells. The immune system, therefore, does not attack the cancerous cells by itself, because it recognizes the cancer cells as normal body cells. The cancer is able to trick the immune system into leaving it alone. This is why up until now, most cancer treatments apart from resection are hard on the patient. It is often unavoidable to attack your healthy cells as well as the cancer cells. This has been true whether the treatment is systemic, such as chemotherapy, or a more isolated approach like radiation.

A drawing of the CD47 protein.
A drawing of the CD47 protein.

Initial Findings and Testing

For many years, researchers were convinced that there would never be one cure for all cancers. Many even thought there may even have to be different treatments for the same type of cancer. One of the reasons for this is there is never only one cause or origin of a type of cancer. Pancreatic cancer can be the result of several different types of mutations. The heterogeneity of cancer led scientists toward a relatively new concept called targeted therapy. Because the same cancer can be caused by a wrong expression of a different gene in different individuals, what is effective treatment for one person may not be for another.

Then in the early part of the previous decade, biology researcher Irving Weissman of Stanford found that in blood cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia, the protein CD47 was overexpressed in the cancer cells. As previously stated, CD47 serves as a type of identification code to help macrophages recognize the cell as one of the body’s own. However, the fact that it is also expressed at higher levels in cancer cells enables them to hide from the immune system. A few years after this discovery, in 2007, a CD47 antibody was injected into a mouse that had been injected with human leukemia cells. A day later, the mouse astonishingly had no sign of the disease.

There is a concern to this therapy when injecting it into a human with a human cancer. If the antibody strips the protein from the cancer cell, that it might also strip it away from normal cells as well. In mice, however, this did not happen. The only side effect was a decrease in red blood cells, but no other normal tissues were affected.

Researchers had hoped and perhaps expected to find the overexpression of the protein in a few other cancers. Their expectations were pleasantly exceeded. The overexpression of CD47 was found in every single type of cancer they tested. Not just blood cancers, but solid tumor cancers such as liver, ovarian, bladder, colon, brain, and prostate. So far, the type of cancers investigated has reached 20, and all are positive for the overexpression of CD47.
When the solid tumor cancers were tested in mice, they experienced similar results. Large solid tumors did not necessarily disappear, but they were shrunk and prevented from metastasizing. Small solid tumors were either shrunk or disappeared altogether. Even if a large tumor is not completely eradicated by the antibody, if it is made smaller and prevented from metastasis, it can then be either resected or further attacked by radiation.

On the Horizon

Stanford has obtained a $20 million grant to pursue this further. At present date, they expect to start human clinical trials in mid 2014. It is necessary for them first to craft a version of the antibody specifically tailored to the human system. The version of the CD47 antibody used in mice is incompatible in humans. Hypothesized levels to inject humans must also be optimized.
If the human system is only capable of taking a certain level of an antibody at any one time, multiple treatments and injections may be required for large tumor burdens. In blood cancers, localization may be a difficulty due to the fact that they have no solid tumors, the cancer cells are spread throughout the blood in the body.

Despite these concerns, researchers seem to be cautiously optimistic that it is possible for this to be a huge breakthrough in cancer treatment. The antibody does not carry the same type of side effects that chemotherapy drugs have. Killing of healthy cells appears to be at a minimum. The initial phase trials will be very telling of how rapid this proposed therapy could advance.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I need this stuff badly.

    • Cerebral Aspect profile imageAUTHOR

      Cerebral Aspect 

      5 years ago from Westland, MI

      Thank you for your feedback. This definitely is a whole different new method...not just a "new and improved" off of already existing methods. And the fact that it has had such an initial positive impact across many cancers is encouraging.

    • Healthyannie profile image

      Annie Messeri 

      5 years ago from Spain

      I have been following this on the web for quite sometime now. It is really exciting stuff - our bodies are just so amazing. Personally I think the Stanford team should be given the Nobel prize asap just to support their research and to help funding. One of the best science projects to date. Voted up and sharing. People out there - please support these scientists.

    • mperrottet profile image

      Margaret Perrottet 

      5 years ago from San Antonio, FL

      This is exciting stuff. Let's hope that they have success in the trials. Voted up, interesting and useful - and sharing.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)