On November 2nd this year, the Minister of Health awarded prizes for scientific activity in the year 2020 to a team from the Institute of Medical Biotechnology and Experimental Oncology of the Medical University of Gdańsk, from the Department of Cell Biology and Immunology, consisting of mgr Anna Felberg-Miętka, Dr Aleksandra Urban, dr Grzegorz Stasiłojć and dr hab. Marcin Okrój, prof. GUMed.
- 'The award was a pleasant surprise for our team,' – says dr hab. Marcin Okrój, prof. GUMed. - 'So far, the laureates have been recruited mainly from the community of clinicians, whereas our scientific activity is part of basic research aimed at creating experimental models, gaining insight into the pathomechanisms of diseases and developing new strategies to combat them using biotechnology and molecular biology methods. Therefore, we are glad that the Ministry has recognised the importance of our research and its contribution to the development of medicine in Poland.'.
The achievement awarded by the minister consisted of a series of four publications:
Mutations resulting in the formation of hyperactive complement convertases support cytocidal effect of anti-CD20 immunotherapeutics published in Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy (IF = 5.44; MNiSW points: 140; JCR first quartile);
Gain-of-function mutation in complement C2 protein identified in a patient with aHUS published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (IF = 10.79; MNiS points: 200; first decile of JCR);
Calcein release assay as a method for monitoring serum complement activity during monoclonal antibody therapy in patients with B-cell malignancies published in The Journal of Immunological Methods (IF = 2.30; MNiS points: 70; JCR third quartile);
Monitoring of the Complement System Status in Patients With B-Cell Malignancies Treated With Rituximab published in Frontiers in Immunology (IF = 7.56; MNiS points: 140; JCR first quartile)
The first of the described publications presents a new strategy for enhancing the activity of therapeutic antibodies used to fight lymphomas and leukaemias, through serum supplementation with hyperactive mutants of complement proteins. The work formed the basis of a patent granted by the Polish Patent Office and patent protection applications currently pending with the European Patent Office and the US Patent Office.
The second paper describes the world's first case of a patient suffering from a rare kidney disease - atypical haemolytic uraemic syndrome (aHUS), in whom a gain-of-function mutation in a protein building the classical pathway complement convertase was identified. This discovery warrants similar studies in much more common autoimmune diseases of unfathomable aetiology and offers the prospect of developing new targeted therapies.
The next article presents a new method for determining complement functionality in the serum of haematological patients, together with its validation performed on samples from a clinical trial. This method was used in the research on which the fourth publication was based. It describes experimental procedures to identify patients with B-lymphocytic lymphomas and leukaemias, pre-qualified for standard treatment with rituximab, for whom there are indications to change treatment in the face of lack of activation or lack of function of the complement system used as an effector mechanism of the drug.