In a new study, researchers used CRISPR-Cas9 to successfully target and treat cervical cancer tumors in vivo (via injection into live and tumor-bearing mice) using “stealth” nanoparticles.
This is the first cure for any cancer using this gene-editing technology.
The research was conducted by a team from Griffith University in Australia.
They explain that the nanoparticles search out the cancer-causing gene in cancer cells and “edit it” by introducing some extra DNA that causes the gene to be misread and stop being made.
This is like adding a few extra letters into a word, so the spell checker doesn’t recognize it “anyTTmore”. Because cancer must have this gene to produce, once edited cancer dies.
The team says in the study, the treated mice have 100% survival and no tumors.
The mice showed no other clinical signs such as inflammation from treatment but there may be other gene changes we haven’t measured yet.
Other cancers can be treated once the team knows the right genes.
Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by a human papillomavirus infection (HPV), with more than 250 women in Australia dying from the disease each year, according to Cancer Australia.
Persistent infection with high-risk HPV is responsible for 99.7% of cervical cancer cases.
After infection, the HPV integrates the E6 and E7 oncogene (genes with the potential to cause cancer), into the human genome, which drive and sustain cervical cancer.
The scientists are working towards human trials of gene therapy in the next five years.
The lead author of the study is Professor Nigel McMillan.
The study is published in Molecular Therapy.
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