World's first chemical guided missile could be the answer to wiping out cancer

February 17, 2011

Deakin University medical scientists have created the world's first cancer stem cell-targeting chemical missile, placing them a step closer to creating a medical 'smart bomb' that would seek out and eradicate the root of cancer cells.

The Deakin researchers have worked with scientists in India and Australia to create the world's first RNA aptamer, a chemical antibody that acts like a guided missile to seek out and bind only to . The aptamer has the potential to deliver drugs directly to the stem cells (the root of cancer cells) and also to be used to develop a more effective cancer imaging system for early detection of the disease. Their discoveries have been published recently in an international cancer research journal, Cancer Science.

The Director of Deakin Medical School's Program, Professor Wei Duan, said the development of the aptamer had huge implications for the way cancer is detected and treated.

"Despite technological and medical advances, the survival rates for many cancers remain poor, due partly to the inability to detect cancer early and then provide targeted treatment," Professor Duan said.

"Current cancer treatments destroy the cells that form the bulk of the tumour, but are largely ineffective against the root of the cancer, the cancer stem cells. This suggests that in order to provide a cure for cancer we must accurately detect and eliminate the cancer stem cells."

The aptamer is the first part of the 'medical smart bomb' the researchers have been developing.

"What we have created is the 'guided missile' part of the 'smart bomb'," Professor Duan explained.

"The aptamer acts like a guided missile, targeting the tumour and binding to the root of the cancer.

"The aim now is to combine the aptamer with the 'bomb' (a microscopic fat particle) that can carry anti-cancer drugs or agents directly to the cancer stem cells, creating the ultimate medical smart bomb."

Professor Duan said the medical smart bomb opened up exciting possibilities for detection and treatment of cancer.

"The cancer stem cell-targeting missile and the smart bomb could revolutionise the way cancer is diagnosed," he explained.

"The minute size of the aptamer means it could locate in their very early stages. Attaching radioactive compounds to the aptamer could lead to the development of sensitive diagnostic scans for earlier detection, more accurate pinpointing of the location of cancer, better prediction of the chance of cure and improved monitoring of the response to treatment.

"More accurate identification of the type of cancer present would lead to more personalised treatment that is more successful and cost-effective.

"This could ultimately lead to better cancer survival rates and greatly improved quality of life for patients."

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Clinical trial suggests new cell therapy for relapsed leukemia patients

November 20, 2017
A significant proportion of children and young adults with treatment-resistant B-cell leukemia who participated in a small study achieved remission with the help of a new form of gene therapy, according to researchers at ...

Researchers discover a new target for 'triple-negative' breast cancer

November 20, 2017
So-called "triple-negative" breast cancer is a particularly aggressive and difficult-to-treat form. It accounts for only about 10 percent of breast cancer cases, but is responsible for about 25 percent of breast cancer fatalities.

Study reveals new mechanism used by cancer cells to disarm attacking immune cells

November 20, 2017
A new study by researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC - James) identifies a substance released by pancreatic cancer cells that protects ...

Cell-weighing method could help doctors choose cancer drugs

November 20, 2017
Doctors have many drugs available to treat multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer. However, there is no way to predict, by genetic markers or other means, how a patient will respond to a particular drug. This can lead to ...

Lung cancer triggers pulmonary hypertension

November 17, 2017
Shortness of breath and respiratory distress often increase the suffering of advanced-stage lung cancer patients. These symptoms can be triggered by pulmonary hypertension, as scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Heart ...

Researchers discover an Achilles heel in a lethal leukemia

November 16, 2017
Researchers have discovered how a linkage between two proteins in acute myeloid leukemia enables cancer cells to resist chemotherapy and showed that disrupting the linkage could render the cells vulnerable to treatment. St. ...

0 comments

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.