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Israeli researchers develop RNA-based drug to destroy cancer cells in bone marrow

Sickle cell patients being treted. Often they require bone marrow transplants

Jerusalem, Israel | Xinhua | Israeli researchers managed to destroy myeloma blood cancer cells using an RNA-based drug delivered to the cells by targeted lipid nanoparticles, Tel Aviv University said in a statement on Sunday.

Adopting this method for “the world’s first time,” researchers destroyed 90 percent of the multiple myeloma blood cancer cells under laboratory conditions, and 60 percent in human tissues taken from patients at Rabin Medical Center of Israel, according to the statement.

In the research whose results were published in the leading journal Advanced Science, the researchers developed lipid-based nanoparticles similar to those used in the COVID-19 vaccine, containing RNA molecules that silence the gene CKAP5, and encoding cytoskeleton-associated protein 5. With this protein’s inhibition, the cancer cell is unable to divide, thus essentially getting killed.

To avoid damaging noncancerous cells, the nanoparticles were coated with antibodies that guided them specifically to the cancer cells inside the bone marrow.

The statement explains that multiple myeloma is a blood cancer usually found in older populations. While most blood cancers appear in the blood stream or lymph nodes and spread from there to the rest of the body, multiple myeloma cells appear and form tumors inside the bone marrow and are therefore very hard to reach.

There are many possible treatments for this disease, but after a certain period of improvement, most patients develop resistance to the therapy and the disease relapses even more aggressively. Therefore, there is a constant need to develop new treatments for multiple myeloma.

RNA-based therapy has a great advantage in this case because it can be developed very quickly. By simply changing the RNA molecule, a different gene can be silenced each time, thereby tailoring the treatment to the progression of the disease and to the individual patient, says the statement.

The drug delivery system developed in the study is the first that specifically targets cancer cells inside the bone marrow, and the first to show that silencing the expression of CKAP5 gene can be used to kill blood cancer cells, opening a new world for selective delivery of RNA medications and vaccines for cancer tumors and diseases originating in the bone marrow, the statement quotes researchers as saying.

The study was conducted by a group of researchers from Tel Aviv University and Rabin Medical Center. ■