In a major development in the field of medical science, research suggests that nano-sized bubbles that exist in the human body may be useful in the treatment of cancer and may work better than chemotherapy.
The new research which has been conducted by Michigan State University and Stanford University, suggests that these bubbly extracellular vesicles (EV) can become mini treatment transporters, which carry a combination of therapeutic drugs and genes that target and kill cancer cells. The research was first published by Science Daily.
Basically, healthy cells in the human body are always producing these tiny extracellular vesicles which transfer genetic material such as DNA and RNA to other cells and It is the DNA which stores important information necessary for the RNA to produce proteins and make sure they act accordingly, a statement from Michigan State University explained.
Masamitsu Kanada, an assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University’s Institute for Qualitative Health Science and Engineering, has improved a therapeutic approach to delivering genes which can convert certain drugs into toxic agents that can target cancerous tumors. His study, which focused on breast cancer cells in mice, recently got published in the Molecular Cancer Therapeutics at the American Association for Cancer Research.
These drugs, or prodrugs, start out as inactive compounds. But once they metabolise in the body, they get activated immediately and can start fighting everything from cancer to headaches.
During their period of study, the researchers used extracellular vesicles, to deliver the enzyme-producing genes that could activate a prodrug combination therapy of ganciclovir and CB1954 in breast cancer cells.
Minicircle DNA and regular plasmid two different gene vectors which act as additional delivery mechanisms for DNA were loaded into the vesicles to see which was better at helping transport treatment. The researchers found that the minicircle DNA was 14 times more effective at delivery and even more successful at killing cancerous tumors.
Kanada feels that this new approach can effectively become a better option for cancer treatment than chemotherapy in the near term.
"Conventional chemotherapy isn’t able to differentiate between tumors and normal tissue, so it attacks it all," Kanada said in a statement. "This non-specificity can cause severe side effects and insufficient drug concentration in tumors."
This method could minimize the risk of unwanted immune responses that can come with other gene therapies. A clinical trial, which is separate from Kanada’s work, is expected to start soon in the US and will use EVs and a type of therapeutic RNA molecule for the treatment of metastatic pancreatic cancer.