JUL 17, 2018 11:30 PM PDT

Experimental "Trojan Horse" Tumor Destruction Approach Using CRISPR

WRITTEN BY: Mauri Brueggeman

A group of researchers are exploring a “trojan horse” tumor destruction model using the main tumor’s own cells.  They published their ideas and outcomes in the July 11, 2018 issue of Science Translational Medicine

Cancerous tumors are comprised of tumor cells that are dividing uncontrollably.  Some tumor cells will drift out into circulation and return to the main tumor site via a built in “homing” mechanism.  Researchers at Harvard have duped these roaming tumor cells into delivering cancer therapies directly to their main tumor, thereby initiating destruction of the main tumor.  Sounds like an in-body sci-fi experience written for a new fiction novel.

New gene editing technology, namely use of CRISPR-Cas9, is how this is actually possible.  Gene editing is the ability to change an organism’s physical DNA.  New sequences or genes can be added, removed, or modified within the genome.  CRISPR-Cas9 stands for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats and CRISPR-associated protein 9.  Bacteria use a similar genome editing mechanism naturally which is why bacteria have been primarily been used as vectors for genome editing up until very recently.  DNA is cut into small fragments and incorporated into a CRISPR locus so that when this is transcribed, the small RNAs have a new target which is then cut by the Cas9 enzyme.  In this study, the authors removed tumor cells and using CRISPR, created the expression of a death receptor on these tumor cells which causes cells to enter apoptosis.  These engineered tumor cells also included a mechanism whereby interaction with a particular drug would induce apoptosis of the engineered “trojan horse” tumor cell before it repopulated the main tumor site following loss of main tumor bulk or went on to start new tumor sites in the body. 

The study used mouse models with primary glioblastoma, recurrent glioblastoma, and breast cancer.  The therapeutic approach had discernable benefits for survival in mice; tumors were considerably reduced in size and reported that 90 percent of mice had increased survival weeks and months following the treatment intervention compared to the control mice (untreated) of which nearly 100 percent died within that same timeframe. 

There are still many unanswered questions surrounding this approach that need further investigation but the potential for using this particular unique “homing” feature of tumor cells is undeniable. 

Sources: Science Translational Medicine, NIH Genetics Home Reference, New England BioLabs, Scientific American,

 

 

About the Author
  • Mauri S. Brueggeman is a Medical Laboratory Scientist and Educator with a background in Cytogenetics and a Masters in Education from the University of Minnesota. She has worked in the clinical laboratory, taught at the University of Minnesota, and been in post secondary healthcare education administration. She is passionate about advances and leadership in science, medicine, and education.
You May Also Like
APR 06, 2021
Immunology
Lymphoma Patient Cured by "Reeducating" their Immune System
APR 06, 2021
Lymphoma Patient Cured by "Reeducating" their Immune System
Australian researchers have used a breakthrough therapy to cure a patient diagnosed with a rare brain lymphoma, a form o ...
APR 15, 2021
Cancer
What should breast cancer treatment in older women look like?
APR 15, 2021
What should breast cancer treatment in older women look like?
A new study published in JAMA Network Open by researchers at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and the University of Pittsburgh ...
MAY 31, 2021
Immunology
Engineering Faster, More Agile T Cell Cancer Fighters
MAY 31, 2021
Engineering Faster, More Agile T Cell Cancer Fighters
Cell therapies use engineered T cells extracted from the patient’s own immune system to rally an attack on tumors. ...
JUN 09, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Faster, Cheaper Diagnosis of Rare Cancer in Fat Cells
JUN 09, 2021
Faster, Cheaper Diagnosis of Rare Cancer in Fat Cells
Scientists have created a gene panel test to quickly and more precisely diagnose common forms of liposarcoma. This break ...
JUN 07, 2021
Cancer
Inflammatory-rich diet associated with greater risk of developing breast cancer
JUN 07, 2021
Inflammatory-rich diet associated with greater risk of developing breast cancer
A breakthrough study soon to be presented at NUTRITION 2021 LIVE ONLINE later this week reports that women who main ...
AUG 01, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Rethinking the Cause of Mutations That Lead to Melanoma
AUG 01, 2021
Rethinking the Cause of Mutations That Lead to Melanoma
Throughout our lives, new cells often replace the ones that become damaged or worn out. As cells divide, they have to re ...
Loading Comments...