By Jodee Redmond from In The Cloud Copy
University researchers Richard Terek and Qian Chen have published a paper drawing attention to a possible treatment for chondrosarcoma, which is a rare type of bone cancer. The research team used nanoparticles to deliver therapies directly to malignant cells. The cancerous tumor volumes notably decreased and increased life expectancy in mouse subjects.
No Approved Treatment for Chondrosarcoma
At present, there are no FDA-approved treatments for chondrosarcoma. This form of the disease is made up of complex cancer cells, making it exceptionally difficult to treat. It’s highly aggressive and most chondrosarcoma patients are adults. The study authors stated, “[o]ne challenge to (drug) delivery in chondrosarcoma is the negatively charged proteoglycan-rich extracellular matrix that needs to be penetrated to reach the tumor cells.”
Richard Terek is the chief of musculoskeletal oncology at Rhode Island Hospital and an orthopedic oncology surgeon with the Lifespan Cancer Institute. Dr. Terek is also a professor of orthopedic surgery at Warren Alpert who studies chondrosarcoma. He collaborated on the study with Chen, a molecular and nano-medicine researcher, director of the NIH-funded Center of Biomedical Research Excellence in Skeletal Health and Repair at Rhode Island Hospital and a professor of orthopedic research and medical science. Together, they sought to develop a nanopiece delivery system that could penetrate the complex chondrosarcoma environments.
Chen explained that the goal was to develop nanomaterial called “nanopieces.” The researchers found that the nanopieces could deliver nucleic acid therapeutics to tissues that are usually quite challenging to penetrate.
Researchers Looked at How Chondrosarcoma Spreads
Along with the problem of getting drugs to the targeted tissues, the researchers studied the way chondrosarcoma spreads through the body. They stated that they don’t yet completely understand what causes cancer cells to metastasize. This is the stage when the cancer cells move from a primary to a secondary site.
Nanotechnology Allows Molecules to Penetrate Cell Walls, Treat Cancer
The basic principle of this therapy is that miRNA (short 21-nucleotide sequences) are over-expressed in chondrosarcoma tumor cells. The miRNA act in a manner similar to genes that cause cancer cells to form.
Dr. Terek’s work over the past 10 years has resulted in the identification of the cancer-causing miRNA in chondrosarcoma. Several screening techniques were required to isolate them. Now that researchers can isolate the harmful miRNA, their negative effects can be dealt with by adding a molecule of the opposite sequence of nucleotides. (Nucleotides are the building blocks of DNA.)
A lot more work needs to be done before this therapy would be ready for use in a clinical setting to treat chondrosarcoma patients. Chen said that the team would continue to work with other researchers and developers to advance this drug therapy option.
Chen’s laboratory has had success in using nanoparticle therapy to treat several other diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis. The researchers recently received a grant from the National Institutes of Health to fund research on treating Alzheimer’s disease with a nanopiece delivery system that can cross the blood/brain barrier.
The results of the study were published in Molecular Cancer Therapies in an article entitled, “Anti-miRNA Oligonucleotide Therapy for Chondrosarcoma.”
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