Australians develop potential cancer killing ‘trojan horse’
Australian scientists are using nano cells derived from bacteria to combat cancer in a so-called “Trojan horse” therapy that may enable direct targeting of cancer cells with chemotherapy, rather than attacking both cancer and healthy cells.
A two-pronged approach sees the first nano cell penetrate and disarm the cancer cell, when a second nano cell then kills it with chemo drugs, reports Reuters.
Dr Jennifer MacDiarmid and Dr Himanshu Brahmbhatt from Sydney boasted a 100% survival rate in mice with human cancer cells over the past two years.
Human clinical trials are planned for the coming months, with human trials of the cell delivering system starting this week at the University of Melbourne & the Royal Melbourne Hospital.
The therapy involves mini-cells called EDVs (EnGenelC Delivery Vehicle) attaching to and entering a cancer cell, with the first wave releasing ribonucleic acid molecules, called siRNA, to switch off the proteins that resist chemotherapy.
The second wave of EDV cells are accepted by the cancer cell, only to release chemotherapy drugs that kill the cancer cell.
"The beauty is that our EDVs operate like 'Trojan Horses' They arrive at the gates of the affected cells and are always allowed in," MacDiarmid said to Reuters.
"We are playing the rogue cells at their own game. They switch-on the gene to produce the protein to resist drugs, and we are switching-off the gene which, in turn, enables the drugs to enter."
Usually while a large number of cancer cells die after treatment with conventional drug therapy - the small remainder can produce proteins that make cancer cells resistant to chemotherapeutic drugs.
"Consequently, follow-up drug treatments can fail. The tumors thus become untreatable and continue to flourish, ultimately killing the patient," Dr Brahmbhatt said to Reuters.
"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," he said.
The mini-cells were "well tolerated with no adverse side effects or deaths in any of the actively treated animals, despite repeated dosing", according to the latest Nature Biotechnology journal.
"Significantly, our methodology does not damage the normal cells and is applicable to a wide spectrum of solid cancer types," MacDiarmid said to Reuters.
"The hope is that the benign nature of this EDV technology should enable cancer sufferers to get on with their lives and operate normally using out-patient therapy."