MIPS Research Summary: Exploring innovative technologies to enhance breast cancer treatment

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Metastatic breast cancer results in tumour cells spreading to other parts of the body, most commonly the liver, brain, bones, or lungs. Nearly 30 percent of women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer will develop metastatic disease, with current therapies shown to be highly aggressive, often leading to harsh side effects which can substantially diminish the patient’s quality of life.

Researchers from Monash University’s Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS) collaborated with the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in an important step forward for research into the treatment of metastatic breast cancer.

By combining two innovative technologies, the research team have presented promising results in advancements towards reducing primary tumour growth and its spread to the human bone as well as to other organs.

In this ongoing study, the MIPS researchers used a bioengineered mouse model from QUT to explore how the MIPS technology – a nanoparticle formulation specifically targeted to tumours using an antibody directed to cancer cells - can treat breast cancer when it has metastasised into the bone. QUTs model replicates a human bone environment, enabling the researchers to simulate a case of metastasis and test the effectiveness of treatments.

MIPS researcher, Dr Anna Cifuentes-Rius, says that whilst nanoparticle technology is still in its infancy, the results so far show promising progress towards enhanced breast cancer treatment.

“Current breast cancer treatments are highly aggressive, toxic and lead to harsh side effects. By utilising a bioengineered mouse model from QUT we were able to simulate a highly aggressive cancer type known as ‘triple negative breast cancer’ to show how our smart nanoparticles are able to recognise cancer cells and apply treatment in a targeted way, plus avoid the spread of cancerous cells to the bone and other organs.”

“By delivering the chemo drug only to tumour cells there is potential to reduce side effects, dosage and frequency of treatment.”

“While we’re excited by these promising results, there is still a lot of work to do in this space – tumour cells are very smart and are often a step ahead with their ability to develop resistance to new drugs and treatments. Taking this into account, we are now using nano-technology to show how we can reduce dosage, enhance drug responses and boost anti-tumour immunity.”

Dr Cifuentes-Rius, who was introduced to the ‘nano world’ while completing her PhD in chemistry, says that while there are still many obstacles and biological barriers to overcome, she believes that to advance in cancer research we need the convergence of many disciplines such as drug discovery, bio-nano technology and cancer biology, and only by working together we will be able to progress cancer research.

“The beauty of this work is the combination of two innovative technologies – the bioengineered mouse model from QUT and the nanoparticle-based treatment being driven by MIPS. Combining forces to harness progressive approaches to cancer research is a step closer to seeing this technology being implemented in the clinic and, hopefully, helping patients to substantially improve treatment outcomes.”

The first stage of this ongoing study, entitled Targeted camptothecin delivery via silicon nanoparticles reduces breast cancer metastasis can be read here.

Article: Targeted camptothecin delivery via silicon nanoparticles reduces breast cancer metastasis

MIPS Authors: Ishdeep Kaur, Anna Cifuentes-Rius and Nicolas Voelcker