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Researchers have succeeded in eliminating most of the myeloma cells in the bone marrow using an RNA-based drug

Thanks to the nanoparticle system they developed - the cancer cell stops dividing and dies

The research image as published on the cover of Advanced Science magazine
The research image as published on the cover of Advanced Science magazine

A research team at Tel Aviv University was able to kill 90% of multiple myeloma blood cancer cells under laboratory conditions, and 60% of the cancer cells in human tissues taken from patients at Beilinson Hospital, using an RNA-based drug (similar to the corona vaccine), which was transported to the target cells using nano - fatty particles. The revolutionary development opens a new world for the selective transport of RNA drugs and vaccines for cancerous tumors and diseases originating in the bone marrow.

isolate and kill the cancer cell

Behind the breakthrough are a series of researchers from Tel Aviv University and the Rabin Medical Center, led by Prof. Dan Farr, one of the pioneers in the development of RNA drugs in the world and the head of the Nanomedicine Laboratory at the Shemunis School of Biomedical Research and Cancer Research, who also serves as the vice president for research and development at Tel Aviv University, and the doctoral student Dana Trav-Rabsky. The results of the research were published in the important journal Advanced Science.

Multiple myeloma is a type of blood cancer, most common among older populations. Unlike most blood cancers that appear in the bloodstream or lymph nodes and from there spread to the rest of the body, multiple myeloma cells appear inside the bone marrow and are therefore very difficult to reach. As part of the study, the researchers developed lipid-based nanoparticles, similar to the particles used in the corona vaccines, that contain RNA molecules that silence a gene called CKAP 5, which codes for a protein that binds the cytoskeleton (number 5). Inhibiting the binding makes the cancer cell unable to divide and actually kills it. The particles were coated with an antibody that directed them specifically to the cancer cells within the bone marrow, without harming non-cancerous cells.

"The challenge in these treatments is to reach the right cells. The drug delivery system we developed is the first to effectively reach cancer cells within the bone marrow in particular, and the first to silence the CKAP 5 gene in blood cancer in general"

The research findings are very encouraging: under laboratory conditions, that is, in cells grown in plates, the nanoparticles developed by the researchers resulted in the death of approximately 90% of the cancer cells. In the second phase, the researchers tested the new treatment on cancer samples taken from multiple myeloma patients in the hemato-oncology department at the Rabin Medical Center. In these samples the success rate was about 60%. In addition, the effectiveness of the nanoparticles was also tested in model animals. The researchers found that after just one injection, 60% of all cancer cells in the bone marrow received the RNA, two thirds of the cancer cells disappeared and the model animals showed significant improvements in all clinical indicators. 

"Patients with multiple myeloma suffer from severe bone pain, anemia, kidney problems and a weakened immune system," says Trav-Revsky. "There are many treatment options for this cancer, but after a certain period of benefit - most patients develop resistance and the disease returns in a more aggressive manner. Therefore, there is a need for the constant development of new treatments for multiple myeloma. RNA-based treatments have a great advantage in this case, since they can be developed in a short time. By simply replacing the RNA molecule, it is possible to silence a different gene each time, thus adapting the medicine to the progression of the disease or to the patient personally. The challenge in these treatments is to reach the right cells. Currently, RNA-based therapies are approved for clinical use for the treatment of genetic liver disease or for vaccination by intramuscular injection, as we saw with the corona vaccines. The drug delivery system we developed is the first to effectively reach cancer cells within the bone marrow in particular, and the first to silence the CKAP 5 gene in blood cancer in general."

"The importance of our development is that it opens up a new world for the selective transport of RNA drugs and vaccines for cancerous tumors and diseases that originate in the bone marrow," concludes Prof. Dan Parr.