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Beating cancer at its own game

Australian scientists have developed a therapy that promises to destroy drug resistant cancer cells

Australian scientists have developed a therapy that promises to destroy drug resistant cancer cells

In contrast to current treatment that sees chemotherapy drugs injected into a cancer patient and attacking both cancer and healthy cells, the latest Nature Biotechnology journal reports on a "Trojan horse" therapy which uses a bacterially-derived nano cell to penetrate and disarm the cancer cell before a second nano cell kills it with chemotherapy drugs. 

The therapy, being developed by Sydney-based biotechnology company EnGeneIC, sees mini-cells called EDVs (EnGenelC Delivery Vehicle) attach and enter the cancer cell. The first wave of mini-cells then release ribonucleic acid molecules, called siRNA, which switch off the production of proteins that make the cancer cell resistant to chemotherapy. This allows a second wave of EDV cells into the cancer cell to release chemotherapy drugs, thereby killing it.

Joint managing directors of EnGeneIC, Dr Jennifer MacDiarmid and Dr Himanshu Brahmbhatt, claim they achieved 100 per cent survival in mice with human cancer cells using a "trojan horse" therapy in the past two years. Human trials of the cell delivery system are said to be starting next week at the Peter MacCullum Cancer Center at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and the Austin at the University of Melbourne.

If trials are successful in humans, the potential new treatment would require much smaller amounts of cancer drugs, making it cheaper than current regimens. It would also require patients spend less time in hospital and promises far fewer unpleasant side effects.

According to Dr Brahmbhatt the concept of "going in in multiple waves and beating cancer at its own game can work in virtually all cancers."

"We want to be part of moving toward a time when cancers can be managed as a chronic disease rather than being regarded as a death sentence," Dr Brahmbhatt says.

29th June 2009

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