The Oncogenesis and Antitumor Research Group, from the Research Institute of the Hospital de Sant Pau-IIB Sant Pau, led by Dr. Ramon Mangues, has developed the first nanometric-sized drug that is selectively antimetastatic. This new drug has been tested in animals and the results are encouraging: it prevents metastasis and also induces the death of those that are already underway. This research needs to be completed with other funds to make the clinic a reality.
Current chemotherapy affects both tumor cells and healthy cells. On the other hand, the new nanomedicine drug does not cause toxicity because it behaves like a drone: it scans the cells of the organism in search of its objective and only eliminates the malignant ones; the healthy ones leave undamaged. In addition, much of the medication accumulates in the tumor, which can prevent many of the side effects of conventional chemotherapy.
The precision of the new treatment is possible thanks to the use of a nanoconjugate, made up of protein nanoparticles coupled with a very powerful chemotherapeutic drug, that manages the direction and the selective delivery of the medication. In particular, it is directed solely to the CXCR4 membrane receptor, which is overexpressed in the membrane of the metastatic stem cells, that is, those that have the ability to initiate and maintain metastasis. In this way, it is achieved to selectively eliminate the cells responsible for the start and maintenance of metastasis.
The new drug has been tested in a murine model of colorectal cancer with metastasis in the lungs, liver, peritoneum and lymph nodes. It has also worked in animals with leukemia, lymphoma and endometrial cancer.
In a couple of years, researchers are confident that they can try it in humans and expect them to have a high impact on cancer treatment, because current therapies offer very limited metastasis control and are associated with severe adverse effects. In addition, they believe that nanoconjugate could be useful in more than 20 types of cancers.
Public and private funds to start a Phase I Clinical Trial
To be able to launch this Phase I study (in people), the researchers have founded the spinf-off Nanoligent, a company created with technology developed in collaboration between the Research Institute of the Sant Pau-IIB Sant Hospital Pau and the Autonomous University of Barcelona, through Professor Antonio Villaverde and Dr. Esther Vázquez, with the involvement of CIBER-BBN and the ICTS Nanbiosis. They have also achieved a Challenges project from the Ministry of Economy and Business.
The Spanish Society of Medical Oncology (SEOM) estimates that in 2035 there will be 315,000 new cases of cancer per year. There are currently no drugs in the market that selectively eliminate metastasis, and metastatic dissemination is responsible for most deaths in oncology patients.
The group has been supported by the IIB Sant Pau Transfer and Innovation Unit that is a member of the Platform for the Innovation in Medical and Health Technologies of the Instituto de Salud Carlos III, ITEMAS.