Research

UTSW Research Doubles Lifespan of Mice with Cancer

A new drug delivery system has increased survival rate by 43 percent.

Researchers at UT Southwestern Simmons Cancer Center have developed a gene therapy drug delivery system that has increased the survival rate of mice with one of the deadliest forms of brain cancer by 43 percent.

Silicon chips were engineered to zap mouse cells to introduce DNA to cells with a gene that often mutates with the brain cancer. A gene that suppresses tumor growth was zapped into the cell with the power of a lightbulb, which expanded the membrane enough for the DNA to be inserted.

“We were shocked at our findings. We have opened a new door for gene therapy,” says Zhaogang Yang, Ph.D., assistant professor of radiation oncology at UT Southwestern Medical Center and the lead author of the study.

Twenty-four hours later, the cells were found to carry the tumor suppressing gene, but the cells were also pouring out exosomes that contained the powerful gene at a higher concentration than normal, meaning the tumor-suppressing genes could get delivered to the rest of the body.

Mice were injected with those exosomes, which caused them to live for 70 days, while those with standard treatment lived only 40. The chips cost less than $10 and can be used up to 50 times.

“This innovation gives targeted gene therapy a badly needed advance in drug delivery,” says Carlos L. Arteaga, M.D., director of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Electricity defined the first half of the 20thcentury, and silicon chips defined the second half. This innovation combines electricity and silicon chips to break new ground in drug delivery.”

The results were published in Nature Biomedical Engineering.

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