SCIENCE: a potential new treatment eradicates ovarian and colorectal cancer within days in mice.

A new exper­i­men­tal type of can­cer treat­ment has shown impres­sive results in mice: erad­i­cat­ing advanced-stage ovar­i­an and col­orec­tal can­cer in ani­mals in as lit­tle as six days.

The new ther­a­py has only been test­ed in mice so far, so let’s not get too excit­ed just yet. How­ev­er, ear­ly signs are promis­ing and human clin­i­cal tri­als could be under­way by the end of the year.

The treat­ment involves tiny ‘drug fac­to­ry’ beads that are implant­ed in the body and deliv­er a con­tin­u­ous high dose of interleukin‑2 (IL2) — a nat­u­ral­ly occur­ring com­pound that appeals to white blood cells in the fight against cancer .

“We only admin­is­ter once, but the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal fac­to­ries con­tin­ue to man­u­fac­ture the dose every day, where it is need­ed until the can­cer is elim­i­nat­ed,” explains bio­engi­neer Omid Veiseh of the ‘Rice Uni­ver­si­ty in Texas.

“Once we deter­mined the right dose – the num­ber of plants we need­ed – we were able to erad­i­cate tumors in 100% of the ani­mals with ovar­i­an can­cer and in sev­en out of eight ani­mals with col­orec­tal cancer.”

Interleukin‑2 is one of a group of immune sys­tem trig­ger pro­teins called cytokines. Although cytokines are already used in the treat­ment of melanoma can­cer and renal cell car­ci­no­ma, the prob­lem sci­en­tists face is get­ting the cytokines to effec­tive­ly fight tumors while avoid­ing dan­ger­ous­ly high lev­els of inflam­ma­tion else­where in the body. body, caus­ing dra­mat­ic side effects.

In this study, the beads were placed in the peri­toneum, a sac-like lin­ing around the intestines, ovaries, and oth­er abdom­i­nal organs. This allows drugs to specif­i­cal­ly tar­get can­cer with­out adding bulk or weight to the body.

The dose of interleukin‑2 giv­en by these phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal fac­to­ries would be too tox­ic if giv­en by intra­venous infu­sion, but here it works because the high con­cen­tra­tions are con­cen­trat­ed on the tumor. The con­cen­tra­tion of the pro­tein else­where in the body appears to be about 30 times low­er than near the tumor, accord­ing to tests.

Each bead has an out­er hydro­gel cell that shields cytokine-pro­duc­ing cells, pro­tect­ing them from attack. These pearls are rec­og­nized as for­eign objects by the sur­round­ing immune sys­tem, but not as imme­di­ate threats, allow­ing them to do their job. They can then be pro­grammed to turn off automatically.

“We found safe and robust for­eign body reac­tions that turned off cytokine flux from the cap­sules with­in 30 days,” says Veiseh. “We also showed that we could safe­ly admin­is­ter a sec­ond treat­ment if it became nec­es­sary at the clinic.”

Drug fac­to­ry beads can poten­tial­ly be adopt­ed for can­cers else­where in the body, as long as there is a lin­ing where they could house them, and they could be mod­i­fied to deliv­er dif­fer­ent types of drugs, the researchers say. It is a flex­i­ble and inno­v­a­tive system.

Plus, the drugs used here have already been approved as safe for use in clin­i­cal tri­als, which should speed up the process. The final treat­ment should be min­i­mal­ly inva­sive and rel­a­tive­ly sim­ple to administer.

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