The latest news from Israeli scientists, published in the Times of Israel, is that researchers at Tel Aviv University have accurately targeted cancerous cells in mice using CRISPR.
CRISPR is Still a New Technology
The scientists used a simple version of CRISPR-Cas9, an antiviral defense program that targets only affected cells. The CRISPR enzyme Cas9 acts like a molecular scissor that cuts the DNA in the cells. The cells are then neutralized, preventing reactivation.
The therapy has been successful in treating cancers in animals while (contrary to chemotherapy) avoiding healthy cells.
Dr. Dan Peer, an expert on cancer at the Tel Aviv University, was interviewed after his research was published in the journal Science Advances. Dr. Peers said that this CRISPR study was the first and as yet the only published study in the world that highlights the cutting of DNA to treat cancers in animals.
Dr. Peers estimates that after using the technique on hundreds of mice, the system should be ready to test on humans in about two years.
CRISPR Genome Editing System
The doctor explained that when CRISPR technology is ready for human trials, tumors will be destroyed in three treatments. There are no side effects. This is contrary to chemotherapy that affects the entire body.
The therapy will be personalized based on a biopsy. It will either be administered as an injection or injected into the tumor directly.
Dr. Peer said that there will be three parts to the treatment:
- ultrafine particles (nanoparticles) built from lipids which are the building blocks of living cells
- RNA messengers that issue instructions for cutting the DNA
- A navigation process that targets cancerous cells
The lipid nanoparticle (LNP) based delivery system targets and destroys the cancer cells. CRISPR’s LNP system transports RNA which encodes for CRISPR enzyme Cas9 to cut the DNA in the cells.
Testing Two Deadly Cancers
The tests showed that one treatment of CRISPR-LPNs resulted in a thirty percent overall survival. Treatment for metastatic ovarian cancer increased overall survival by eighty percent.
Dr. Peer said that the delivery system that has been developed can treat aggressive cancers that currently do not have effective treatments.
He explained that a safe and effective system must first be established that can accurately transport CRISPR to the target cells. The scientists view the delivery system as a significant step towards finding a cure for cancer.