Tiny magnets offer breakthrough in gene therapy for cancer

April 17, 2008

A revolutionary cancer treatment using microscopic magnets to enable 'armed' human cells to target tumours has been developed by researchers funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). Research published online today in the journal, Gene Therapy, shows that inserting these nanomagnets into cells carrying genes to fight tumours, results in many more cells successfully reaching and invading malignant tumours.

Using human cells as delivery vehicles for anti-cancer gene therapy has long been an attractive approach for treating tumours, but these cells usually reach tumours in insufficient numbers to effectively attack them. Now, a new 'magnetic targeting' method has been developed to overcome this problem by Professor Claire Lewis at the University of Sheffield, Professor Jon Dobson at the University of Keele, and Professor Helen Byrne and Dr. Giles Richardson at the University of Nottingham.

The technique involves inserting nanomagnets into monocytes - a type of white blood cell used to carry gene therapy - and injecting the cells into the bloodstream. The researchers then placed a small magnet over the tumour to create a magnetic field and found that this attracted many more monocytes into the tumour.

The head of the laboratory in which the work was done, Professor Lewis, explains: "The use of nanoparticles to enhance the uptake of therapeutically armed cells by tumours could herald a new era in gene therapy - one in which delivery of the gene therapy vector to the diseased site is much more effective. This new technique could also be used to help deliver therapeutic genes in other diseases like arthritic joints or ischemic heart tissue."

Professor Jon Dobson from the University of Keele, said: “Though the concept of magnetic targeting for drug and gene delivery has been around for decades, major technical hurdles have prevented its translation into a clinical therapy. By harnessing and enhancing the monocytes' innate targeting abilities, this technique offers great potential to overcome some of these barriers and bring the technology closer to the clinic.”

Professor Nigel Brown, BBSRC Director of Science and Technology, said: "This exciting work could have huge implications in healthcare. Fundamental bioscience research may sometimes seem to have little relevance to everyday life, but understanding the basic workings of the human body and harnessing nanoscale technology has resulted in a process of great potential in tumour therapy."

The team are now looking at how effective magnetic targeting is at delivering a variety of different cancer-fighting genes, including ones which could stop the spread of tumours to other parts of the body.

Source: Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council

Explore further: Gene therapy for beta-thalassemia safe, effective in people

Related Stories

Gene therapy for beta-thalassemia safe, effective in people

April 18, 2018
In a powerful example of bench-to-bedside science showing how observations made in the lab can spark life-altering therapies in clinic, an international team of clinician-investigators has announced that gene therapy for ...

How bone marrow niches keep stem cells thriving

April 19, 2018
Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) are a class of stem cells located in bone marrow. HSCs give rise to every type of blood cell—from the red blood cells that carry oxygen to the white blood cells of the immune system. Bone ...

A molecular atlas of calcific aortic valve disease

April 18, 2018
Calcific aortic valve disease (CAVD) - a disease that leaves the aortic valve stiff and calcified, preventing blood flow from the heart into the aorta - affects one quarter of the U.S. population aged 65 and over. There is ...

Discovery of four subtypes of melanoma points to new treatment approaches

April 12, 2018
Melanoma, a relatively rare but deadly skin cancer, has been shown to switch differentiation states—that is, to regress to an earlier stage of development—which can lead it to become resistant to treatment. Now, UCLA ...

Gene mapping lays groundwork for precision chemotherapy

April 17, 2018
Despite the great successes of targeted cancer drugs and the promise of novel immunotherapies, the vast majority of people diagnosed with cancer are still first treated with chemotherapy. Now a new study by UCSF researchers ...

New paper suggests that tumor cells may develop resistance to potential Ras inhibitors

April 17, 2018
Researchers have long sought a treatment aimed specifically at the Ras family of genes, the most common oncogenes and those that initiate many of the most lethal tumours. However, the results of a hypothetical treatment may ...

Recommended for you

Variants in non-coding DNA contribute to inherited autism risk

April 19, 2018
In recent years, researchers have firmly established that gene mutations appearing for the first time, called de novo mutations, contribute to approximately one-third of cases of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In a new study, ...

Researchers discover link between gene variation and language

April 18, 2018
What shapes the basic features of a language?

Natural selection still at work in humans

April 18, 2018
Evolution has shaped the human race, with University of Queensland researchers finding signatures of natural selection in the genome that influence traits associated with fertility and heart function.

Potential lines of attack against prostate cancer

April 17, 2018
Researchers from The University of East Anglia (UEA) have contributed to the world's largest study into genes that drive prostate cancer – identifying 80 molecular weaknesses that could be targeted by drugs to treat the ...

Epstein-Barr virus linked to seven serious diseases

April 16, 2018
A far-reaching study conducted by scientists at Cincinnati Children's reports that the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)—best known for causing mononucleosis—also increases the risks for some people of developing seven other major ...

Depression study pinpoints genes that may trigger the condition

April 16, 2018
Nearly 80 genes that could be linked to depression have been discovered by scientists.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

NeilFarbstein
1 / 5 (1) Apr 17, 2008
Vulvox nanobiotechnology corporation has been working on magnetically targeted liposomes for the same purposes as above
http://vulvox.tripod.com

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.