'Trojan Horse' sneaks into cells using tumor's own defense mechanism

Another day, another "Trojan Horse" metaphor in the drug-delivery world. This one comes from British researchers. "It's like we've made a re-enactment of the battle of Troy but on the tiniest scale. In Troy, the Greeks fooled the Trojans into accepting a hollow horse full of soldiers--we've managed to trick cancer cells into accepting drug-filled microparticles," Davidson Ateh of Queen Mary, University of London, said in a release. Ateh is so confident in his tiny warriors that he is setting up a company called BioMoti to commercialize it.

The researchers already knew that cancer cell surfaces contain a protein called CD95L, which seek out another protein called CD95. These two proteins act as a tag team to avoid being destroyed by the body's immune system, leaving the cancer alone to grow. Ateh and colleagues decided to use a little deception and used CD95 to coat microparticles that can deliver the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel. The drug hijacks the cancer cell's own affinity to mate with CD95 to get the chemotherapy into the tumor cell. This way, healthy cells are not harmed, only the sick ones.

"Chemotherapy is still the main way that we treat ovarian cancer, which can be particularly aggressive and difficult to treat. Anything we can do to concentrate the treatment in tumor cells and at the same time protect healthy cells is a good thing. This is an elegant method and if it works in a clinical setting as well as we hope it will patients could experience a better treatment with fewer side effects," Iain McNeish, co-author and Queen Mary professor, said in a statement.

The next step is to get the company, BioMoti, up and running with a Big Pharma contract to help them develop the Trojan Horse that they're naming OncoJan. So far, Britain's Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, among others, has funded the work.

- read the release from BBSRC