Tuesday, April 26, 2011

IISc, Deakin join hands to fight cancer with nanotechnology

The Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and Australia's Deakin University have joined efforts to build a nanotechnology-based drug delivery system to target cancer stem cells. Deakin University scientists led by Wei Duan, Director of Deakin Medical School's nano-medicine programme, have developed a ribonucleic acid (RNA) antibody nearly one-tenth the size of a natural antibody to act like a guided missile to seek and bind to cancer stem cells.

"IISc would be joining hands in producing nano-sized lipid particles that will encapsulate the desired drug and other cancer-targeting epitopes (part of a molecule recognized by the im- mune system) for delivery," Wei said in an e-mail interview. "The assembling and testing, clinical trials will be done in our laboratory."

The project has a funding of about Rs. 4.14 crore (Rs. 41.4 million), with Rs. 8 million sanctioned by India's Department of Science and Technology and US$ 700,000 (Rs. 33.4 million) by the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund.

Cancer treatment currently uses two main approaches --- chemotherapy that uses chemicals and radiation therapy using laser beams to kill cells cells. A third approach is based on nanotechnology. Therapies like polymer nano-tubes carrying anti-cancer drug and building nano-particles to replace the DNA in cancerous cells with healthy ones are in the research stage.

In a targeted drug delivery system, antibodies that bind to target cells and stimulate the immune system to attack the affected cells are used to kill the tumours. But cancer stem cells are usually resistant to drugs. So even if the cancer cells are killed, the root stays alive and can regenerate. This makes the root cells an important target in new treatments, Wei said.

In the IISc-Deakin programme, the system is designed to deliver drugs directly to stem cells, or the root of cancerous cells. When injected or taken orally, the system floats in the body till it reaches stem cells, penetrates them and melts, releasing the drug and killing the specified cell.

"Our research caught the attention of Wei, who wrote to us on possible collaboration to work together," said Santanu Bhattacharya, faculty member at the Department of Organic Chemistry in IISc, who has been working in the field of lipids for two decades.

While IISc brings expertise in developing nano-sized lipids, Wei's team has expertise in making chemical antibodies.
The nano-sized lipid aggregates being developed by IISc in Bangalore will be combined with the antibody and tested in Deakin University's laboratory in pre-clinical tests. "This is capable of better penetration across the cells since it has very small size and possesses the specific information for targeting cancer cells as opposed to healthy cells," Bhattacharya said. "Also, such lipid aggregates should have no adverse immunogenic reactions."

Apart from IISc, Deakin University's School of Medicine and its Institute for Technology Research and Innovation are collaborating with Australia-based hospital Barwon Health's Andrew Love Cancer Centre and ChemGenex Pharmaceuticals Ltd. on the project.

According to the World Health Organisation, cancer caused 7.6 million deaths (13% of all deaths) globally in 2008, which is expected to rise to about 11 million in 2030.

"Personalised treatment is being used for cancer these days, where affected cells are targeted. However, we still target the whole body, and in the process, end up killing some unaffected cells as well," said B. S. Ajai Kumar, radiation oncologist and Chairman of Health-Care Global Enterprises Ltd., which does research and development of innovative cancer treatment methods. "The nanotechnology-based drug system is one step advanced in this category, which targets the affected stem cells."

Wei said the IISc-Deakin product will need five years to reach the market and can be adapted to other ailments as well such as Alzheimer's, heart disease and diabetes.

Source: Mint, April 26, 2011

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