NRI scientist gives new hope to cancer sufferers 0.05
Posted by , on Wednesday August 12 2009 06:24:10 Sydney: An Australian scientist of Indian origin has developed a new method to send nanocells to cancerous tumours so that tumours that are resistant to other drugs can be destroyed.
After five years of research, Himanshu Brahmbhatt and his partner Jennifer MacDiarmid of EnGeneIcs, the cancer therapeutics company they founded, are set to commence human clinical trials of their process, which involves sending bacterially derived nanocells or EDVs (EnGeneIC Delivery Vehicles) into rogue cancer cells in two separate waves.
Dubbed a "Trojan horse", the technique can destroy tumour cells that are the biggest killers of long-term cancer patients. Besides cancer treatment, this novel technology also has potential applicability to tackle a number of other delivery problems as well, Brahmbhatt told the Indian Link magazine here.
He explained that following chemotherapy, tumours often became resistant to drugs. At that stage, "our concept of sequential therapy uses different targeted nanocells (Trojan Horses) to enter into the same cancer cells to deliver different payloads to treat such cancers.
"It's a conceptual breakthrough. We demonstrate for the first time that the first wave of targeted nanocells carry molecules called 'small interfering RNAs' which can be designed to switch off the production of the drug-resistance-causing proteins in the cancer cells.
"Once the defence mechanism of the cancer cells is disabled, the cells become sensitive to anti-cancer drugs. Therefore, we send in the next wave of targeted nanocells through the blood system but this time the nanocells carry the anti-cancer drugs to which the cancer cells were formerly completely resistant."
Brahmbhatt said: "We discovered that the cancer cells will again open doors to allow the second Trojan Horse (targeted nanocells packaged with drugs) through and once inside the cancer cell, the nanocell spills the anti-cancer drug, thus killing the cancer cells. This dual sequential therapy can be repeated many times until the cancer is eliminated."
The concept has been tested successfully in mice and dogs. Human trials are set to commence by the end of August.
Brahmbhatt said several hundred cancer patients have "written to us seeking to participate in our clinical trials. However, this process of screening patients and enrolment in the trial will be carried out by the oncologists (cancer specialists) at the hospitals where the trial will be done."
The trial, with over 40 cancer patients, can take over eight months.
Brahmbhatt said if early trial results are positive, the firm may try to treat a cancer patient who does not have any other option.
EnGeneIC is working towards establishing collaborations or licensing deals with major pharmaceutical companies in the US, Europe and Japan with a view to co-developing several anti-cancer therapeutics based on the EDV technology.
"This will allow us to fast track the process to get such therapeutics out on the market so that cancer patients worldwide may benefit," Brahmbhatt was quoted by Indian Link as saying. It can take three to four years to get such a therapeutic to market.
Relapse of a cancer is common and often the tumour becomes resistant to drugs when the relapse does take place. These are the patients whose hopes can revive due to Brahmbhatt's breakthrough.