Gene to sabotage breast cancer cells

February 28th, 2011 - 5:59 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Feb 28 (IANS) A designer gene delivered directly into breast cancer cells causes these to self-destruct — thanks to a scientist’s pioneering work. Helen McCarthy from Queen’s School of Pharmacy, Belfast packaged a gene — called a Designer Biomimetic Vector (DBV) — into a nanoparticle 400 times smaller than a human hair for direct deliver into breast cancer cells in the lab.

The gene called iNOS, specifically targets breast cancer cells using the DBV where it forces the cells to produce poisonous nitric oxide, either killing the cells outright or making them more vulnerable to being destroyed by chemotherapy.

As the method leaves healthy breast cells untouched, this would overcome many of the toxic side effects of current treatments, the International Journal of Pharmaceutics reports.

It could be tried in patients in as little as five years. McCarthy’s next step is to turn the nanoparticles into a dried powder that could be easily transported and reconstituted before being given to patients, according to a Queen School statement.

McCarthy said: “A major stumbling block to using gene therapy in the past has been the lack of an effective delivery system.

“In the long term, I see this being used to treat people with metastatic breast cancer that has spread to the bones, ideally administered before radiotherapy and chemotherapy.”

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