Non-Toxic Cancer Treatment On The Way?

Researchers have developed and tested a “Trojan horse” treatment for cancer in mice, raising hopes for non-toxic human cancer treatment.

Asian Scientist (Jan. 27, 2014) – An international team of researchers have developed and tested a “Trojan horse” treatment for breast cancer in mice, raising hopes for non-toxic human cancer treatment.

The treatment is based on delivering an anti-cancer molecule known as interferon alpha to tumor cells.

“The interferon alpha protein has well-known anti-cancer properties, but previous efforts to use it as a cancer treatment have been limited because it has to be administered at high levels, which can be toxic,” said Dr Roberta Mazzieri, a senior author of the study published in Science Translational Medicine.

To overcome this toxic effect, the researchers hid the interferon alpha protein in circulating immune cells known as TEMs that the tumor recruits for its own growth and progression.

“Tumors use TEMs to grow new blood vessels and also to help the tumor suppress the immune response,” said Dr Mazzieri. “Because TEMs are efficiently recruited to tumors, we exploited their tumor-homing activity to turn them into delivery vehicles.”

The researchers then modified the cells so that they produce interferon alpha when they are being recruited to the tumor.

“Its effect is so potent, you need only a few cells,” Dr Mazzieri said. “You have one cell producing interferon alpha and many cells responding.”

Clinically, the procedure is similar to a bone marrow stem-cell transplant. Stem cells from the patient’s bone marrow are removed, but rather than receiving a donor’s stem cells, the patient’s own stem cells are modified to include interferon alpha and then introduced back into the patient. These stem cells then go on to become TEMs.

The treatment would not be limited to breast cancer.

“This is a general approach, which means you can use it on different tumor types,” Dr Mazzieri said.

Tests on mice with breast cancer showed a strong anti-tumor effect along with a significant reduction in cancer spreading, without any observable toxicity. It was, however, unclear if the method would be effective in human breast cancer and further clinical test would be needed to establish its safety and efficacy in human patients.

The article can be found at: Escobar G et al. (2014) Genetic Engineering of Hematopoiesis for Targeted IFN-α Delivery Inhibits Breast Cancer Progression.


Source: University of Queensland; Photo: dave.dave.dave/Flickr/CC.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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