New drug delivery system may shut down tumour-causing genes

June 5th, 2009 - 1:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, June 5 (IANS) Researchers have developed a way to deliver drugs which can shut down cancer-causing genes in tumour cells while sparing normal healthy tissues.
For instance, while cervical cancer vaccines, co-developed by Ian Frazer, professor at the University of Queensland (UQ), are reducing the chances of infection with the virus that causes the cancer, thousands more are likely to contract cervical cancer in future.

Sherry Wu, a doctoral student at the UQ and her colleagues observed a 70 percent reduction in tumour size in a cervical cancer mouse model, with this technique.

“The traditional ways of packaging these drugs into suitable carriers are often complex and labour-intensive. The resulting products are also unstable at room temperature which is obviously not ideal for their clinical use,” says Wu.

RNA interference, a Nobel-prize winning technology discovered in the late 90’s, may be a way to solve this problem. It allows highly-specific silencing of cancer-causing genes in tumour cells.

But there are problems to solve before its use can be realized in clinics. These gene-silencing drugs are hard to deliver due to their instability as well as the lack of means for their efficient cell entry.

“In order to deliver these gene-silencing drugs safely and efficiently into tumour tissues in the body, we have to package them in lipid-rich carriers,” Wu said.

The packaging method developed jointed by Wu and Lisa Putral shows promise in bringing the technology to clinics.

“We are excited about our findings and we are currently investigating the feasibility of combining this gene-silencing technology with low dose chemo-therapeutic agents in cancer treatments,” said Nigel McMillan, professor at the UQ’s Diamantina Institute.

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