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TAU Researchers Make Yet Another Cancer Treatment Breakthrough

The researchers have proven that a drug delivery system based on lipid nanoparticles can utilize RNA to overcome resistance to both chemotherapy and immunotherapy in cancer treatments.

Researchers from Tel Aviv University have developed yet another new treatment for cancer. The researchers have proven that a drug delivery system based on lipid nanoparticles can utilize RNA to overcome resistance to both chemotherapy and immunotherapy in cancer treatments.

They declare that the study opens a new path to a personalized and precisely targeted battle against cancer. The results were published in the scientific journal Advanced Materials.

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This comes as little surprise to anyone who has followed the daily news coming out of Israel Startup Nation. Israeli firms are at the forefront of new medical technologies and Israeli researchers seem to come up with new medical treatments on almost a daily basis.

And this is especially true when it comes to cancer treatments. Just last week Both the Ben-Gurion University in Beer Sheva and the Weizmann Institute of Science announced new breakthroughs in cancer treatments. And last month, Nucleai, an Israeli medtech startup that uses artificial intelligence (AI) powered spatial biology to transform drug development and clinical treatment decisions for precision cancer treatments, raised $33 million in a Series B financing round.

The study was led by TAU 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, and a member of the Roman Abramovich Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, together with post-doctoral researcher Dr. Seok-Beom Yong of South Korea. The study was funded via an ERC grant from the European Union and a research scholarship from the Korean government.

Chemo-immunotherapy, which combines chemotherapy with immunotherapy, is considered the most advanced standard of care for various types of cancer. While chemotherapy destroys cancer cells, immunotherapy encourages the cells of the immune system to identify and attack the remaining cancer cells. However, many patients fail to respond to chemo-immunotherapy, which means that the treatment is not sufficiently targeted. Prof. Peer and his team are the first in the world to prove the feasibility of a drug delivery system based on lipid nanoparticles that release their load only at the specifically targeted cells – cancer cells for chemotherapy and immune cells for immunotherapy.

“In our system a single nanoparticle is capable of operating in two different arenas,” explains Prof. Peer. “It increases the sensitivity of cancer cells resistant to chemotherapy, while also reinvigorating immune cells and increasing their sensitivity to cancer cells. Thus, with one precisely targeted nanoparticle we provide two different treatments, at very different sites. We tested this system in two types of lab models – one for metastasized melanoma, and the other for a local solid tumor. In both populations we observed positive effects of our delivery system.”

The new development by Prof. Peer’s team builds from another recent discovery: an enzyme called HO1 is used by cancer cells for both resisting chemotherapy and concealing themselves from the immune system. Silencing HO1 in the tumor is thus considered an optimal strategy in clinical research, but so far, all attempts to silence the enzyme led to severe side effects.



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