A fast and effective mechanism to combat an aggressive cancer

February 24, 2014
A fast and effective mechanism to combat an aggressive cancer
Gagomers (labeled in color) accumulating on ovarian cancer cells are shown. Credit: American Friends of Tel Aviv University (AFTAU)

Ovarian cancer accounts for more deaths of American women than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. According to the American Cancer Society, one in 72 American women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and one in 100 will ultimately die of the condition.

Now Prof. Dan Peer of Tel Aviv University's Department of Cell Research and Immunology has proposed a new strategy to tackle an aggressive subtype of using a new nanoscale drug-delivery system designed to target specific . He and his team – Keren Cohen and Rafi Emmanuel from Peer's Laboratory of Nanomedicine and Einat Kisin-Finfer and Doron Shabbat, from TAU's Department of Chemistry – have devised a cluster of nanoparticles called gagomers, made of fats and coated with a kind of polysugar. When filled with , these clusters accumulate in tumors, producing dramatically therapeutic benefits.

The objective of Peer's research is two-fold: to provide a specific target for anti-cancer drugs to increase their therapeutic benefits, and to reduce the toxic side effects of anti-cancer therapies. The study was published in February in the journal ACS Nano.

Why chemotherapy fails

According to Prof. Peer, traditional courses of chemotherapy are not an effective line of attack. Chemotherapy's failing lies in the inability of the medicine to be absorbed and maintained within the tumor cell long enough to destroy it. In most cases, the chemotherapy drug is almost immediately ejected by the cancer cell, severely damaging the healthy organs that surround it, leaving the tumor cell intact.

But with their new therapy, Peer and his colleagues saw a 25-fold increase in tumor-accumulated medication and a dramatic dip in toxic accumulation in healthy organs. Tested on laboratory mice, the gagomer mechanism effects a change in drug-resistant tumor cells. Receptors on tumor cells recognize the sugar that encases the gagomer, allowing the binding gagomer to slowly release tiny particles of chemotherapy into the cancerous cell. As more and more drugs accumulate within the tumor cell, the cancer cells begin to die off within 24-48 hours.

"Tumors become resistant very quickly. Following the first, second, and third courses of chemotherapy, the tumors start pumping drugs out of the cells as a survival mechanism," said Prof. Peer. "Most patients with beyond the ovaries relapse and ultimately die due to the development of drug resistance. We wanted to create a safe drug-delivery system, which wouldn't harm the body's immune system or organs."

A personal perspective

Prof. Peer chose to tackle ovarian in his research because his mother-in-law passed away at the age of 54 from the disease. "She received all the courses of and survived only a year and a half," he said. "She died from the drug-resistant aggressive tumors.

"At the end of the day, you want to do something natural, simple, and smart. We are committed to try to combine both laboratory and therapeutic arms to create a less toxic, focused drug that combats aggressive drug-resistant cancerous cells," said Prof. Peer. "We hope the concept will be harnessed in the next few years in clinical trials on aggressive tumors," said Prof. Peer.

Explore further: Targeted treatment for ovarian cancer discovered

Related Stories

Targeted treatment for ovarian cancer discovered

February 19, 2014
Researchers at Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island have developed a biologic drug that would prevent the production of a protein known to allow ovarian cancer cells to grow aggressively while being resistant to chemotherapy. ...

Drug delivery system successfully treats deadly ovarian cancer in mice

December 6, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Scientists at Rutgers University have developed a targeted drug delivery system that they believe could make ovarian cancer more treatable and increase survival rates for the most deadly gynecological cancer ...

Researchers trying to block enzymes that make ovarian cancer chemo-resistant

January 29, 2014
QUT scientists are making significant inroads into our understanding of the deadliest form of ovarian cancer after identifying two enzymes that make it resistant to chemotherapy.

Ovarian cancer discovery deepens knowledge of survival outcomes

December 9, 2013
Researchers in the Women's Cancer Program at Cedars-Sinai's Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute have identified a series of 10 genes that may signify a trifecta of benefits for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer ...

COXEN model picks the best drug for ovarian cancer

February 18, 2014
There are three common drugs for advanced ovarian cancer: paclitaxel, cyclophosphamide, and topotecan. Like a shell game, if you pick the right drug a patient is likely to respond. And, unfortunately, picking the wrong drug ...

Biologists ID new cancer weakness

November 14, 2013
About half of all cancer patients have a mutation in a gene called p53, which allows tumors to survive and continue growing even after chemotherapy severely damages their DNA.

Recommended for you

Compound shows promise in treating melanoma

July 26, 2017
While past attempts to treat melanoma failed to meet expectations, an international team of researchers are hopeful that a compound they tested on both mice and on human cells in a petri dish takes a positive step toward ...

Study uncovers potential 'silver bullet' for preventing and treating colon cancer

July 26, 2017
In preclinical experiments, researchers at VCU Massey Cancer Center have uncovered a new way in which colon cancer develops, as well as a potential "silver bullet" for preventing and treating it. The findings may extend to ...

Understanding cell segregation mechanisms that help prevent cancer spread

July 26, 2017
Scientists have uncovered how cells are kept in the right place as the body develops, which may shed light on what causes invasive cancer cells to migrate.

Study may explain failure of retinoic acid trials against breast cancer

July 25, 2017
Estrogen-positive breast cancers are often treated with anti-estrogen therapies. But about half of these cancers contain a subpopulation of cells marked by the protein cytokeratin 5 (CK5), which resists treatment—and breast ...

Physical activity could combat fatigue, cognitive decline in cancer survivors

July 25, 2017
A new study indicates that cancer patients and survivors have a ready weapon against fatigue and "chemo brain": a brisk walk.

Breaking the genetic resistance of lung cancer and melanoma

July 25, 2017
Researchers from Monash University and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC, New York) have discovered why some cancers – particularly lung cancer and melanoma – are able to quickly develop deadly resistance ...

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.