Using neurodegeneration to fight cancer safely and effectively

The researchers bound the kind of siRNA found in Huntington’s disease with a complementary strand from another degenerative disorder, myotonic dystrophy, to create a hybrid duplex, then put this inside nanoparticles that were quickly gobbled up by cancer cells in culture. All varieties of cancer tested–ovarian, lung, liver, melanoma, and several more–stopped growing within a few hours, and the majority were dead by the end of the trial.

When this molecule was tested on mice that had been grafted with human tumors, similar effects were seen, especially in mice with larger tumors. Better still, when grafted tumor cells that had undergone treatment were extracted and cultured separately, they remained sensitive to the therapy. This suggests that tumors may not be able to develop resistance to such a treatment, a major hurdle with most cancer drugs.

Cancer treatments also frequently struggle with toxicity, killing normal bodily cells almost as readily as cancerous ones, and producing notoriously grueling side effects. Not so with the siRNA treatment tested by the Peters lab, though. No side effects or toxicity were observed in mice over the short span of treatment, likely because the survival mechanisms affected are used infrequently or minimally by normal cells, while cancer cells,


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