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Researchers Develop Nanodrug For Double, Effective Treatment Of Cancer

Research done at the Tel Aviv University has proven that a drug delivery system based on lipid nanoparticles can make use of RNA to control the resistance shown by cancer cells to both chemotherapy and immunotherapy forms of treatment. The results were published in the scientific journal Advanced Materials and are expected to open up a new path to a more in-depth and personalized treatment of cancer.

The study was led by Tel Aviv University Vice President for R&D Prof. Dan Peer, Head of the Laboratory of Precision Nanomedicine at the Shmunis School of Biomedicine and Cancer Research, Wise Faculty of Life Sciences along with post-doctoral researcher Dr. Seok-Beom Yong of South Korea.

Chemo-immunotherapy, which is a combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy, is known to be one of the most advanced form of treating different types of cancer. While chemotherapy destroys cancer cells, immunotherapy works by the cells of the immune system identifying and attacking the remaining cancer cells. However, many patients fail to respond to chemo-immunotherapy, which means that the treatment has not met with much success. Peer and his team are the first in the world to prove the workability of a drug delivery system based on lipid nanoparticles, which releases their load only at the specific cells -- cancer cells for chemotherapy and immune cells for immunotherapy.

The new development follows another discovery where an enzyme called HO1 is used by cancer cells for the double purpose of both resisting chemotherapy and escaping from the immune system. The removal of the HO1 in the tumor is thus thought to be important for clinical research, but till now, all attempts to silence the enzyme has led to severe side effects.

Commenting on the research findings, Prof. Peer said, "Chemo-resistant tumors pose a significant challenge in our endless battle against cancer. We aim to silence the enzyme HO1 which enables tumors to develop resistance to chemotherapy, and to conceal themselves from the immune system. But existing methods for silencing HO1 resemble using an F-16 fighter jet to blast a tiny ant. Our new nanodrug knows how to precisely target the cancer cells, silence the enzyme, and expose the tumor to chemotherapy, without causing any damage to surrounding healthy cells. Afterwards, the same nanoparticle goes on to the T-cells of the immune system and reprograms them to identify cancer cells. Active, highly aggressive tumors are able to conceal themselves from the immune system, and we restore the immune cells' ability to recognize the cancer as a foreign body and attack it."

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