In a new study from the Technion—Israel Institute of Technology, researchers have developed an innovative treatment for breast cancer, based on analgesic nanoparticles that target the nervous system.
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in women, and despite breakthroughs in diagnosis and treatment, about one thousand women in Israel die of the disease per year.
Around 15% of them are under the age of 50. Worldwide, some 685,000 women die each year from breast cancer.
In the study, the team found that cancer cells have a reciprocal relationship with the nerve cells around them: the cancer cells stimulate infiltration of nerve cells into the tumor, and this infiltration stimulates cancer cell proliferation, growth, and migration.
In other words, the cancer cells recruit the nerve cells for their purposes.
Based on these findings, the researchers developed a treatment that targets the tumor through the nerve cells. This treatment is based on injecting nanoparticles containing anesthetic into the bloodstream.
The nanoparticles travel through the bloodstream toward the tumor, accumulate around the nerve cells in the cancerous tissue, and paralyze the local nerves and communication between the nerve cells and the cancer cells.
The result: Strong inhibition of tumor development and of metastasis to the lungs, brain, and bone marrow.
The team says tumors stimulate increased formation of new blood vessels around them, so that they receive oxygen and nutrients, but the structure of these blood vessels is damaged and contains nano-sized holes that enable penetration of nanoparticles.
The cancerous tissue is characterized by poor lymphatic drainage, which further increases the accumulation of the particles in the tissue.
The anesthetizing particles the researchers developed move through the bloodstream without penetrating healthy tissue.
Only when they reach the damaged blood vessels of the tumor do they leak out, accumulate around the nerve cells of the cancerous tissue, and disconnect them from the cancer cells.
The fact that this is a very focused and precise treatment enables the team to insert significant amounts of anesthetic into the body because there is no fear that it will harm healthy and vital areas of the nervous system.
In experiments on cancer cell cultures and in the treatment of mice, the new technology inhibited not only tumor development but also metastasis. The researchers estimate these findings may be relevant for the treatment of breast cancer in humans.
If you care about breast cancer, please read studies about walnut may change genes in breast cancer, improve survival and findings of a new way to detect breast cancer more accurately.
For more information about breast cancer treatment and prevention, please see recent studies about how diet could influence spread of breast cancer and results about could drinking oolong tea help you prevent breast cancer?
The study is published in Science Advances. One author of the study is Professor Avi Schroeder.
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