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New spin-off created at the UAB to develop nanomedicine for cancer treatments
Nanoligent, launched by researchers at the UAB Institute of Biotechnology and Biomedicine and the Research Institute of the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, aspires to create the first drug designed to eliminate metastatic stem cells.
Researchers from the Institute of Biotecnology and Biomedicine of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, the Research Institute of Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau and the CIBER in Bioengineering, Biomaterials and Nanomedicine have developed a nanomedicine to be used in treating metastasis through the selective elimination of cancer stem cells. The system is based on nanoparticles which transport chemotherapeutic drugs into the body and release them inside the cancer cells.
The research team, led by Esther Vázquez and Antonio Villaverde, from the UAB, and Ramon Mangues, from the Hospital Sant Pau, have already created a prototype of the drug and conducted in vivo trials with animal models of colorectal cancer, demonstrating its effectiveness, selective biodistribution and low toxicity. Now, with the intention of launching the drug development into the clinical phase, the team created the spin-off Nanoligent, diriected by Manuel Rodríguez, an experienced professional in the field of investment, creation and expansion of biotech companies.
The technology has received the approval of the main patent offices, the European Patent Office (EPO) and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which have registered three patents protecting the drug and which have already been licensed by Nanoligent.
The therapy created by the researchers is aimed at blocking the development o a metastasis, mainly one resulting from colorectal cancer, through new strategies aimed at specific cell types. It consists in a new drug administration system based on protein nanoparticles which selectively conduct the therapeutic agent to the cancer cells. The drug only acts on the cancer cells, because it focuses on a specific interaction between a protein present in the nanoparticle and a cell receptor (CXCR4), which is overexpressed in tumour cells. “This interaction is crucial, because it allows attacking only the tumour cells without touching the healthy ones, thereby avoiding the side effects of classic chemotherapy treatments,” Antonio Villaverde points out.
There is an overexpression of the CXCR4 cell receptor in many types of tumours, so that "this technology can be focused on treating different types of neoplasms in addition to colorectal cancers and derived metastases, such as lymphoma, leukemia or endometrial cancer, in animal models available to us at the Hospital Sant Pau", states Ramon Mangues. In addition, the nanoparticles are compatible with an enormous variety of available drugs and therefore make them highly versatile in transporting a wide array of therapeutic molecules.
"There is an urgent need for more effective and personalised cancer treatments. The toxicity and lack of effectiveness of conventional drugs is driving us to experiment with alternative strategies directed and designed for one specific type of cell. Nanoparticles, thanks to their great ability to penetrate, spread and operate, offer a promising nanomedical outlook on being able to create new drugs", Esther Vázquez explains.
"In this sense, Nanoligent's technology opens a new door for anti-cancer treatments, given that we can design a more specified cell treatment than those on the market, and at the same time offer more biosafety and biodegradability, and less toxicity", Antonio Villaverde affirms.
There are currently no drugs on the market capable of selectively eliminating metastatic stem cells. Although Nanoligent's technology is still in the development phase, researchers assure that the drug has great potential and consider that it will have a high clinical impact once the regulatory trials are conducted.