Researchers develop nanotherapeutic drug to stop cancer from spreading to liver

Research physicians at UT Southwestern Medical Center have developed an innovative nanotherapeutic drug that prevents cancer from spreading to the liver in mice.

The new liver-specific microRNA drug, developed by a team led by Andrew Wang, MD, is a promising candidate for pharmaceutical companies that have developed messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines for COVID-19, due to similarities between these RNA agents.

“This could be a beacon of hope emerging from the pandemic,” said Dr. Wang, professor of radiation oncology and author of a rodent study published in the journal. Research against cancer.

“It takes significant funding and resources to develop nanoparticles capable of delivering nucleic acids such as mRNA and miRNA. Prior to the development of COVID-19 vaccines, the cost was prohibitive. But now that multiple platforms have been developed and approved, these platforms/nanoparticles can be used for other applications such as what we have developed in mouse models in my lab,” added Dr. Wang, Associate Vice President for Radiation Oncology Research and member of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The core of the study drug was made by complexing miR-122 with calcium phosphate, and lipids were wrapped around the core to make the nanoparticle. The drug delivers miR-122 into hepatocytes, making them “healthier” by helping to prevent cancer cells from establishing themselves in the liver. Although the drug has only been tested in mice, it is a valuable advance in the fight against cancer, as up to 70% of people with conditions such as colorectal cancer eventually develop hepatic metastases.

Liver metastases are second only to lung metastases, so new therapies in this area are urgently needed in oncology. Dr. Wang’s study is promising because it showed minimal toxicity.”

Carlos L. Arteaga, MD, Director of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center, Lisa K. Simmons Distinguished Chair in Comprehensive Oncology


UT Southwestern Medical Center

Journal reference:

Sendi, H. et al. (2022) Delivery of miR-122 nanoparticles inhibits colorectal cancer liver metastasis. Research against cancer.

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