Israel's Technion Develops Nano-Capsules to Treat Stomach Cancer

Breakthrough technology using milk protein nanocapsules may overcome multidrug resistant gastric cancer, scientists say.

Ruth Schuster
Ruth Schuster
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Nanotechnology, now in the service of sparing cancer patients from being guinea pigs in the search for the right medication.
Nanotechnology, now in the service of sparing cancer patients from being guinea pigs in the search for the right medication.Credit:
Ruth Schuster
Ruth Schuster

A new nanotech-based treatment method being developed by an Israeli university team may help overcome a deadly enemy in cancer therapy – the development of drug resistance. Worse, multi-drug resistance.

"Many patients who apparently respond to first-line chemotherapy frequently face tumor progression or recurrence, necessitating additional chemotherapeutic cycles," explains the Technion University team in their paper, "-casein nanovehicles for oral delivery of chemotherapeutic drug combinations overcoming P-glycoprotein-mediated multidrug resistance in human gastric cancer cells".

The more chemo cycles the patient undergoes, even if they worked at first – the greater the probability that they will stop working, due to the frequent emergence of multiple drug resistance, they say.

Gastrointestinal cancers are a huge killer, says the Technion team of Maya Bar-Zeev, Prof. Yehuda Assaraf and Prof. Yoav Livney. As they report in the journal Oncotarget, the new treatment modality is based on delivering a chemoresistance reversal agent, which eliminates the tumor’s resistance to chemotherapeutic drugs, with anti-cancer drugs – all encased in nano-sized casein micelles.

Casein is the main milk protein, and micelles are naturally self-organized spheres.

In nature, casein micelles are found in breast milk, delivering calcium, phosphorus and protein from the mother to the baby. The form of casein that Bar-Zeev used in her doctoral work, under Livney and Assaraf, as the drug delivery platform has the ability to encapsulate substances that are not water-soluble (such as many drugs), and is efficiently digested in the stomach.

The casein based nanocapsules could then be added into a drinkable water-based preparation, which could be in the form of a tasty milk beverage.

The micelles have been shown capable of carrying the chemotherapy cocktail to the stomach, and release them there. The team therefore surmises that the concept will be particularly effective in treating gastric diseases of different kinds, and specifically gastric and stomach cancers in particular.

The team also postulates that efficiently delivering the chemotherapy drugs together with the anti-resistance compounds in these micelles will not only improve the treatment of stomach cancer, but help prevent the development of multi-drug resistance in cancer cells, or to overcome it if already developed.

It bears noting that the notion is at a very early stage. Animal tests should start soon, the team says.

Crucially, most chemo is delivered by intravenous injection, while this would be swallowed. Not only would patient suffering at the sight and feel of needles be diminished: potentially the patients could take the chemo course by themselves at home. And for that added frisson of satisfaction, think of the savings in not having to pay for hospitalization just for the administration of chemotherapy.

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