Scientists kill cancer cells with toxic gene

September 24th, 2008 - 11:45 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 24 (IANS) A research team killed off pancreatic cancer cells by getting nanoparticles to deliver a deadly diphtheria toxin gene to the targeted area. This approach, tested successfully for the first time in pancreatic cancer cells, opens the way to future pre-clinical animal studies, and possibly a new clinical approach.

Researchers from Jefferson Medical College surgery department and its Kimmel Cancer Centre found that delivery of a diphtheria toxin gene inhibited a basic function of pancreatic tumour cells by over 95 percent, killing off such cells six days after a single treatment.

They also demonstrated that the treatment targets only pancreatic cancer cells and leaves normal cells alone, thus providing a potential ‘therapeutic window’. Further, they are targeting a molecule that is found in over three-quarters of pancreatic cancer patients, reports Eurekalert.

These findings are scheduled for publication in the October issue of Cancer Biology & Therapy.

“For the pancreatic cancer world, this is very exciting,” said the study’s co-author, molecular biologist Jonathan Brody, assistant professor at the department of surgery. He works closely with surgeon Charles J. Yeo.

“There are no effective targeted treatments for pancreatic cancer, aside from surgery for which only a minority of patients qualify. We are in great need of translating the plethora of molecular information we know about this disease to novel therapeutic ideas,” said Brody.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related mortality in the US, reflecting the generally short survival time of patients - often less than a year from diagnosis.

This approach was originally developed in ovarian cancer cells by study co-author Janet Sawicki, a member of the Kimmel Cancer Centre. She and her group had recent success in reducing the size of ovarian tumours following treatment with diphtheria toxin nanoparticles.

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