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International Health Insurance News: Could ARMs help to combat HIV and cancer?

Expatriate medical insurance customers could soon benefit from an innovative class of medicines.

Drugs are being developed by healthcare centres throughout the world that recruit disease-fighting antibodies to assist in the treatment of cancer, infections and a number of other conditions.

Scientists at the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society outlined some of the breakthroughs that have been made in this area.

One of the people investigating these antibody recruiting molecules (ARMs) is Dr David Speigel, who told the scientific society that this approach follows the long-lasting and potentially impossible ambition of researchers to discover "magic bullets" that can deal with a wide range of diseases.

Everyone has a high number of antibodies in their bloodstream, each of which has been programmed by the immune system to find specific allergens, viruses and bacteria that are seen by the body as a foreign invader – so-called antigens.

When people are exposed to substances in the environment, their body begins to produce these antibodies and if they come across certain microbes or other materials, they latch on to them and mark them out for destruction.

Dr Spigel said: "Antibodies have been wonderful drugs for autoimmune diseases and cancer."

However, he pointed out that these substances cannot be given to patients in a pill but must instead be injected, similar to other protein-based medicines.

Furthermore, this treatment method has been shown to cause immune or allergic reactions that can potentially be life-threatening, the healthcare specialist asserted.

ARMs could be consumed orally and would use a person's own antibodies to combat illness, which could potentially treat a wide range of conditions and would be easier and cheaper for medical service providers to deliver.

Dr Spiegel's Yale University research group is currently looking at ARMs that combat the 2,4-dinitrophenyl epitope in order to encourage a human's immune system to target HIV and cancer.

Tumour-fighting ARMs have already been shown to deliver positive responses in animal models, while laboratory mice tests into antibody recruiters that combat HIV are currently underway.

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