Saturday, February 24, 2018

Trojan Horse targets metastatic cancer

Image credit: Pellecchia Lab, UC Riverside
CANCER DIGEST – Feb. 24, 2018 – Researchers have developed a Trojan Horse that delivers anti-cancer drug to a metastatic cancer cell. If proven successful, it could be used to reduce or halt metastases, which is the leading cause of death in cancer.

Once cancer metastasizes, or spreads to other parts of the body, there is no current therapy that can target those traveling cancer cells, and chemotherapy is indiscriminate, destroying healthy as well as cancerous cells.

In a collaborative research effort by scientists at the University of California Riverside and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles the researchers have demonstrated in mice a new approach to metastatic cancer that specifically targets tumor metastasis. The study appears in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

The researchers have developed an agent that specifically latches onto a protein on the surface of metastatic cancer cells. The protein is produced by an oncogene called EphA2 that tumors produce to allow the tumor to migrate throughout the body via the circulatory or lymphatic systems.

Once the agent latches onto the cell surface protein, a cancer drug is then transmitted inside the cell where it kills the cell. In the study, the researchers loaded the agent with the anti-cancer drug paclitaxel. In their proof-of-concept study of mice with metastatic cancer, the mice given the new drug had significantly fewer circulating cancer cells in the blood compared to the mice not treated.

While the work is a long way from clinical trials in humans, the results thus far are promising.

"In a second tumor model of metastatic breast cancer," said Maurizio Pellecchia, a professor of biomedical sciences at UCR's School of Medicine in a press release, "we demonstrated that mice treated with the EphA2-targeting paclitaxel conjugate presented nearly no lung metastases, while a large numbers of lesions were observed in both untreated mice and in mice treated with just paclitaxel."

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