Rutgers University scientists developed a targeted drug delivery system that could make ovarian cancer more treatable and help to increase the survival rate for the most deadly gynecological cancer in the United States.
Most women who have ovarian cancer are not diagnosed until after the disease has metastasized on to other organs. By that time surgery and chemotherapy are not nearly as effective.
“Once the ovarian cancer becomes drug resistant we cannot cure it,” says Rodriguez who is a gynecologic oncologist who has been providing treatment to ovarian cancer patients. She is also the director of the precision medicine initiative at Rutgers Cancer institute of NJ.
Advanced stage ovarian cancer is caused by an out of control protein CD44. This enables cancerous tumors to proliferate and become resistant to conventional drug treatments. Only 30 percent of advanced ovarian cancer patients survive for five years.
A new study published in “Clinical Cancer Research,” Professor Tamara Minko and Lorna Rodriguez reveal the outcome of research on animals with cancer. They use small, inhibiting RNA molecules that directly target and decrease the overproduced CD44 protein cancer cells while also simultaneously treating patients with the anti-cancer drug paclitaxel. This allows even advanced cancerous tumors to be successfully treated.
“We expect that the proposed treatment will be especially effective in advanced stages of ovarian cancers, where there are many cancer stem cells in the tumors that resist conventional drug treatment,” says Minko.
Because the CD44 protein is expressed on the surface of most cancer stem cells, these measures and advances developed by the Rutgers scientists may help in treating other types of cancers as well. The next step is to create a drug for humans to consume that could be used in clinical trials. Which, in time could lead to new pharmacological cancer treatments and perhaps increased survival rate from ovarian cancer.