Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute design gene-tipped tumor regressor 'smartbombs'

A group of researchers from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have demonstrated what, in principle, could be a new way of treating cancer and several other diseases where angiogenesis occurs. Angiogenesis, the formation and differentiation of new blood vessels, is a crucial process in cancer, and, when blocked, improves a patient's prognosis.

In cancer-related angiogenesis, tumors develop their own blood supplies by causing cells that line blood vessels to proliferate, forming new vessels and bringing more blood to the tumor. The increased oxygen and nutrients the tumors receive allows them to grow and enables certain "metastatic" cells to leave the tumor, enter the bloodstream, migrate to other tissues of the body, and establish more tumors.

In an article appearing in the latest issue of the journal Science, the TSRI investigators combined a gene that shuts off angiogenesis with a 50-100 nanometer-sized particle that selectively targets the cells that form new blood vessels in cancer tumors. This approach combines gene delivery with specific vascular targeting thereby effectively disrupting the blood supply of tumors without influencing the normal blood vessels or any other tissue.

This anti-cancer nanoparticle is like a smart bomb that delivers its multiple warhead genetic payload into endothelial cells that proliferate during angiogenesiswhich is the medical equivalent of cutting off all the supply routes to destroy the tumor. Once angiogenesis is stopped, the tumor cells starve, and the tumor is ultimately destroyed.

Anti-angiogenics have been known of and studied for many years, but this anti-cancer nanoparticle is a new type of anti-angiogenic. Unlike other, "systemic" angiogenesis blockers, which become diffused throughout the blood steam upon injection, the nanoparticle-targeting vehicle directs itself to areas of the body where the tumors exist and where local vascular cells are expanding to form new blood vessels. The n

Contact: Robin B. Clark
Scripps Research Institute

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