A new drug works like a drone that identifies metastatic stem cells, administers the drug and destroys only these cells, blocking the metastasis. This nanodrug has been successfully tested in animal models of colorectal cancer and could be used in 20 additional tumor types.
Researchers at the Center for Biomedical Research in Network for Bioengineering, Biomaterials and Nanomedicine ( CIBER-BBN ) at the Sant Pau Biomedical Research Institute (IIB Sant Pau), the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) and the CSIC have demonstrated the effectiveness of a nanodrug that selectively removes metastatic stem cells in animal models of colon cancer. These results have been published in EMBO Molecular Medicine.
The team, led by Ramón Mangues, Antonio Villaverde and Esther Vázquez, has shown that the drug acts only on metastasis-initiating cells through its specific interaction between a peptide present in the protein nanoparticle that transports it and the CXCR4 cellular receptor, which is overexpressed in tumor cells.
This allows attacking only the tumor cells, blocking their dissemination in early stages. It prevents the appearance of metastasis, while avoiding the adverse effects derived from the usual treatments.
“It has been observed that this receptor is overexpressed in at least 20 different types of cancer, including those of the prostate, breast, ovary and others not as common as the pancreas,” the scientists said. “This nanoparticle can be used to treat different types of neoplasms, making it a very versatile vehicle that can transport different therapeutic molecules of high potency“, they added.
It is the first drug in the world that blocks metastatic spread, the main cause of death in cancer patients. Currently, there are no drugs on the market that selectively eliminate metastatic stem cells.
Therefore, this new discovery could have a high clinical impact after the necessary tests have been performed so it can be used in humans. The Hospital de Sant Pau in Barcelona would be the first center in the world to evaluate this drug in humans, prior to its possible introduction in clinical therapeutics.
In June 2017, the same authors launched Nanoligent, a spin-off created to develop the first drug designed to eliminate metastatic cells.