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A new form of cancer therapy could totally wipe out advanced ovarian & colorectal tumors in 6 days

A team of bioengineers has utilized implantable "drug factories" to deliver continuous, high doses of interleukin-2, helping fight cancer in mice. Human clinical trials are scheduled to begin as early as this fall.

A new form of cancer therapy could totally wipe out advanced ovarian & colorectal tumors in 6 days
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Bioengineering researchers have developed a new cancer therapy that can completely destroy advanced ovarian and bowel tumors in just six days. Clinical trials are scheduled to begin in the next few months, but results documented on mice were described as "very exciting." The research study, co-authored by Omid Veiseh, Amanda Nash, and colleagues from Rice, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, the University of Virginia, and others, were published online on Science Advances earlier this month. Avenge Bio, a startup based in Massachusetts and co-founded by Veiseh, has licensed the new technology, the Rice University Office of Public Relations reports.


As part of the newly-developed cancer therapy, researchers utilized implantable "drug factories" the size of a pinhead to deliver continuous, high doses of interleukin-2, a natural compound that activates white blood cells to fight cancer. These drug-producing beads can be implanted with minimally invasive surgery, making them far more accessible than present forms of therapy. Each "drug factory" contains cells specifically engineered to produce interleukin-2 that are encased in a protective shell. One of the research study's key design criteria was helping cancer patients as quickly as possible. Therefore, Veiseh, whose lab produced the treatment, shared that human clinical trials could begin as early as this fall.


This is possible particularly because the research team made use of only components that had previously proven safe for use in humans. The study has also demonstrated the safety of the new treatment in multiple tests. "We just administer once, but the drug factories keep making the dose every day, where it’s needed until the cancer is eliminated," Veiseh, an assistant professor of bioengineering at Rice, stated. "Once we determined the correct dose—how many factories we needed—we were able to eradicate tumors in 100 percent of animals with ovarian cancer and in seven of eight animals with colorectal cancer."


Study co-author Dr. Amir Jazaeri, professor of gynecologic oncology and reproductive medicine at MD Anderson, added, "A major challenge in the field of immunotherapy is to increase tumor inflammation and anti-tumor immunity while avoiding systemic side effects of cytokines and other pro-inflammatory drugs. In this study, we demonstrated that the ‘drug factories’ allow regulatable local administration of interleukin-2 and eradication of tumors in several mouse models, which is very exciting. This provides a strong rationale for clinical testing." The team of researchers placed drug-producing beads beside tumors and within the peritoneum, a sac-like lining that supports intestines, ovaries, and other abdominal organs. This placement allowed the researchers to concentrate interleukin-2 within tumors, limiting exposure elsewhere.


Nash, a graduate student in Veiseh’s group and the study’s lead author, compared the therapy to existing treatments. She claimed that the drug factories trigger a stronger immune response than existing interleukin-2 treatment regimens as the beads deliver higher concentrations of the protein directly to tumors. "If you gave the same concentration of the protein through an IV pump, it would be extremely toxic," she said. "With the drug factories, the concentration we see elsewhere in the body, away from the tumor site, is actually lower than what patients have to tolerate with IV treatments. The high concentration is only at the tumor site." Therefore, due to the efficacy and proven safety of the treatment, researchers are now looking forward to testing the drug factories on humans through clinical trials.


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