Nanomedicine Targets Gastric Tumors

Technion Researchers Develop a Nanomedicine Technology for the Targeted Treatment of Gastric Tumors

A schematic depiction of the transport platform and its operation
Prof. Yehuda Assaraf, Dean of the Faculty of Biology and Director of the Fred Wyszkowski Cancer Research Laboratory

A study conducted at the Technion, and published in the journal Oncotarget introduces innovative technology for future treatment of stomach cancer. The new treatment modality is based on a transport platform developed at the Technion using a combination of anti-cancer drugs and a chemoresistance reversal agent, which eliminates the tumor’s resistance to chemotherapeutic drugs.

Maya Bar-Zeev

It was developed as part of Maya Bar-Zeev’s doctoral dissertation at the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute, under the joint supervision of Prof. Yoav Livney of the Faculty of Biotechnology Engineering, and Prof. Yehuda Assaraf, Dean of the Faculty of Biology and Director of the Fred Wyszkowski Cancer Research Laboratory at the Technion.

Professor Yoav Livney of the Faculty of Biotechnology Engineering

The novel treatment will be administered orally and not intravenously, which implies that the cancer patient will be able to take the drug by himself at home. Furthermore, hospitalization is dangerous for immunocompromised cancer patients, due to drug-resistant pathogens widespread in hospitals.

Effective Packaging

The unique transport platform was developed at the laboratories of Prof. Livney and Prof. Assaraf, and essentially packages the drug in beta-casein. Caseins are the main proteins found in milk, in structures called micelles. The natural role of casein micelles is the transfer of calcium, phosphorus and protein from mother to the baby through breast milk. Beta-casein has a unique spatial structure providing it with two essential properties: the ability to encapsulate substances that are not water-soluble (i.e., hydrophobic compounds) and efficient digestion in the stomach.

Previous studies carried out in Prof. Livney’s lab first presented the potential of casein micelles for oral delivery of vitamins and drugs that are not water-soluble. A series of joint studies carried out with Prof. Assaraf examined beta-casein as a nanometric delivery vehicle for anti-cancer chemotherapy drugs. Since this platform effectively carries the drug to the stomach and releases it there, the researchers believe that it will be particularly effective in gastric diseases and gastric cancer in particular – one of the most aggressive and deadly types of cancer.

The current findings are based on a series of successful laboratory experiments and prove the system’s effectiveness in drug-resistant human gastric cancer cells. Now the research group is about to examine the system’s effectiveness in experiments on laboratory animals. According to the hypothesis, the combination of anti-cancer drugs and anti-resistance compounds on the innovative nanometric platform is expected to achieve a dramatic improvement in the treatment of stomach cancer, including in cells that have developed resistance to a broad spectrum of anti-cancer drugs.