Just hearing the word “chemotherapy” naturally causes apprehension and anxiety among individuals diagnosed with cancer – and even among healthy people as well. Chemo’s side effects include nausea, loss of appetite, fatigue, constipation or diarrhea, hair loss, mouth sores and skin, and nail problem and may even cause trouble concentrating or remembering things and even may affect the nerves, muscles, and hearing. Its painful side effects often cause patients to halt treatment prematurely.
But now, a research team headed by Prof. Alexander Binshtok – head of the Pain Plasticity Research Group at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Faculty of Medicine and Edmond & Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences – has developed a method that delivers chemotherapy drugs directly to malignant cells and bypasses healthy ones.
The article was titled “2-APB and CBD-Mediated Targeting of Charged Cytotoxic Compounds Into Tumor Cells Suggests the Involvement of TRPV2 Channels.” Other participants were from Jerusalem’s Hebrew University Medical Faculty, Shaare Zedek Medical Center and Hannover Medical School in Germany.
This important discovery could allow doctors to reduce chemo doses for patients, thereby reducing the unpleasant side effects connected with chemotherapy and improving treatment compliance and overall prognoses.
“Most anti-cancer treatments are not sufficiently specific, meaning they attack healthy cells together with the malignant ones they’re trying to get rid of,” explained Binshtok. “This leads to the many serious side-effects associated with chemotherapy. Eliminating cancerous cells while leaving healthy ones alone is an important step towards reducing patients’ suffering.”
The new findings, published in a recent issue of the journal, focuses on the selective expression of the TRPV2 protein by cancer cells. When activated, TRPV2 protein opens a canal inside cell membranes. Binshtok and his team studied liver cancer cells and were able to successfully insert a low dose of doxorubicin, a chemotherapeutic agent, through the canal and directly into cancer cells.
Not only did the new method target cancer cells without harming healthy ones, but in the future, the precision of this delivery method could make it possible for oncologists to prescribe lower chemo doses and to relieve patients from some of the harsher effects of chemo.
“It’s too early to make concrete predictions but we are hopeful this discovery will lead the way towards a new, more targeted delivery method for chemotherapy treatment, one that will drastically reduce patients’ pain,” Binshtok concluded.
“The ultimate goal in anti-cancer drug development is to target only cancer cells, sparing normal cells. Several approaches are currently being used to enhance the effect of anticancer drugs on tumor cells. Some of these strategies are tuned to target cancer-specific cellular machinery,” the authors wrote. “Others, by using polymeric drug carriers, liposomes and other nanoparticles enhance the delivery of non-specific chemotherapeutics to the tumor cells by modifying the drug tissue biodistribution. Here, we unveil a different method for the selective targeting of tumor cells.”