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Increased Efforts and Progress in the Search for a Cure

Scientists have worked tirelessly in a battle that has lasted far too long… the fight against cancer. Great strides have been made over the years. Unfortunately, many have hit roadblocks during testing and when seeking approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Nevertheless, scientists have refused to give up and continue to discover new methods which they hope will eventually lead to finally curing cancer, once and for all. The following are some of the newest discoveries that have gained widespread attention.

Scientists Use Nanoparticles in Effort to Cure Lung Cancer

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common type of lung cancer, and it is extremely difficult to treat. The five-year survival rate for stage 3A tumors is around 36 per cent. Recently, researchers at Jefferson College of Pharmacy set out to develop a new treatment which they based on nanotechnology. The treatments has thus far been effective in mice, and the research was published in the journal Molecular Pharmaceutics.

A molecule called microRNA 29b has been shown to stall tumor growth and improve response to chemotherapy. However, it is ineffective if delivered by injection alone due to degradation in the bloodstream and removal by immune cells. This prompted Sunday Shoyele, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Jefferson, to search for a method that would completely bypass these limitations.

Dr. Shoyele and his colleagues developed a nanoparticle that would deliver the molecule to the patient. Dr. Shoyele included part of a human antibody, immunoglobulin G, to cloak the particle from the immune system and eliminate the risk of removal. The team also added the MUC1 antigen to guide the nanoparticle to the lung tumors. Then the microRNA-29b molecule and two other components were glued together using a sticky polymer.

Research showed that these nanoparticles were capable of locating the tumors and shrinking them in mice, and additional testing will be conducted prior to approval for human clinical trials.

“This work extends our previous work demonstrating that these particles were effective in shrinking tumor tissue in a petri dish. Here we show that they are also effective in a more complex living system,” said Dr. Shoyele. Further testing will include comprehensive toxicity tests and scaling of the nanoparticle manufacturing process for clinical trials.


Scientists Develop Ovarian Cancer Vaccine

A recent study conducted at Ludwig Cancer Research has produced a revolutionary cancer vaccine that induces immune responses in patients with stage 3 and 4 ovarian cancer. Researchers Lana Kandalaft, George Coukos, and Alexandre Harari discovered that the vaccine, which is made from a processed sample of a patient’s tumor and delivered to their immune cells, is well-tolerated, and immune responses target both known cancer antigens and a variety of neoantigens in cancer cells.

“This is the first time ever that a personalized vaccine made from the contents of whole cancer cells has been shown to produce immune responses against neoantigens,” said Kandalaft. “We’ve also shown that these immune responses are not just any responses but the type that kill tumor cells, and that they correlate with better progression-free survival and better overall survival of patients.”

The study met all of its endpoints, and the researchers compared their results with historical patient data of ovarian cancer recurrence. “We aren’t giving patients any completely new drugs in combination with this personalized vaccine,” said Kandalaft. “Bevacizumab and cyclophosphamide are routinely used to treat recurrent ovarian cancer. All we did was add the vaccine. This means that we should be able to easily integrate this personalized immunotherapy into the current standard of care for recurrent ovarian cancer.”


Liquid Biopsy Technology Designed to Improve Prostate Cancer Treatment

Researchers from the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto have developed new technology for liquid biopsy, which is designed to identify which patients may not respond to standard therapy before it is delivered.

“Screening for drug resistance is key to improving treatment approaches for many cancers,” said Shana Kelley, professor at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto. “It’s important for patients not to be on a therapy that won’t help them, and it’s also important for healthcare systems to avoid, whenever possible, delivering ineffective treatments.”

Magnetic nanoparticles with DNA capture probes on their surface that can target circulating tumor cells in blood samples. These can be observed to see if the cells contain biomarkers associated with drug resistance.

“We can then trap the individual magnetized cells in a microfluidic device built in the lab, isolating them from all the other cells in the sample and allowing us to perform highly sensitive analysis,” said Kelley.

“We are very excited because this is like finding a needle in a haystack. It paves the way for a straightforward and personalized screening tool that allows clinicians to see if a patient will respond to therapy or not. Our method is also rapid, accurate, and inexpensive, which gives it real potential for clinical uptake.”

Going forward, the researchers will need to replicate the study on a larger scale and expand the application to other types of cancer, as well as various other diseases. “Liquid biopsy is one of the most promising tools emerging for the management of cancer, and we are excited about the potential of our technology to streamline this type of testing.”


Vaccine-Like Cure for Cancer Yields Promising Results

Researchers from Stanford University developed and tested a vaccine-like cure for cancer, which successfully removes 97 per cent of tumors in mice. The mice observed in the study were found to have lymphoma, breast cancer, and colon cancer, which spread throughout the rest of their bodies. The researchers discovered that 87 out of 90 mice have been cured following treatment.

Dr. Alice Police, regional director of breast surgery at Northwell Health Cancer Institute in Westchester, New York, stated that although the findings were an exciting new development, animal results may not necessarily mimic those of humans, and further testing will need to be done before the treatment is ready for clinical trials.


Organoids Guide Bladder Cancer Treatment

Researchers from Columbia University and New York-Presbyterian have created patient-specific organoids designed to improve bladder cancer treatment by imitating the features of real tumors and guiding precision treatment going forward.

“The great advantage of organoids is that they are essentially avatars of a patient’s tumor,” said Professor Michael Shen of Columbia University. “Having these personalized laboratory models, which we can make in a matter of weeks, will let us test multiple different drugs on the tumor and help us bring precision medicine to individuals with bladder cancer.”

Professor and co-author James McKiernan notes that this is an important advance in the field of medicine. “Ultimately, this may allow us to develop new therapies for the disease and predict an individual patient’s response to treatment.”

The organoids will be tested further in an effort to gauge their predictive capabilities through co-clinical trials, wherein patients and their organoids are treated with the same drug.

“This would establish whether organoids can be used to predict how an individual patient will respond to a specific therapy,” said Shen. “At present, it’s very difficult to know beforehand exactly which drugs may be most effective for a given patient.”

Ongoing Research

Research continues around the world as scientists struggle to find the cure people so desperately seek; and while an official cure may be years away from hitting the market, great strides have been made. With ever-expanding technology and new developments in the fields of science and medicine, a cure appears to be getting closer and closer to becoming a reality.


Auberge on the Park-Tridel


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