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Nanoparticles can target treatment-resistant breast cancer: Study

Researchers generate nanoparticles that may overcome treatment-resistant breast cancer.

By
Amy Wallace
A study by researchers at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine has shown nanoparticles may help overcome treatment-resistant breast cancer. Photo by Anawat Sudchanham/Shutterstock
A study by researchers at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine has shown nanoparticles may help overcome treatment-resistant breast cancer. Photo by Anawat Sudchanham/Shutterstock

CINCINNATI, Dec. 14 (UPI) -- Researchers the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine have generated multifunctional RNA nanoparticles that could overcome treatment-resistant breast cancer and may make existing treatments more effective in those patients.

The study, published in the American Chemical Society's ACS Nano, shows that using a nanodelivery system to target HER2-positive breast cancer and stop the production of the protein MED1, could slow tumor growth, stop cancer from spreading and sensitize the cancer cells to treatment with tamoxifen, a known treatment for estrogen-driven cancer.

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The research was led by Xiaoting Zhang, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Cancer Biology at UC.

MED1 is a protein that is produced at abnormally high levels in breast cancer cells that when eliminated, is found to stop cancer cell growth. HER2-positive breast cancer involves amplification of a gene encoding or programming the protein known as human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, which also promotes the growth of cancer cells.

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"Most breast cancers express estrogen receptors, and the anti-estrogen drug tamoxifen has been widely used for their treatment," Zhang said in a press release. "Unfortunately, up to half of all estrogen receptor-positive tumors are either unresponsive or later develop resistance to the therapy. In this study, we have developed a highly innovative design that takes advantage of the co-overexpression of HER2 and MED1 in these tumors."

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Zhang's team found that RNA nanoparticles are able to selectively bind to HER2-overexpressing breast tumors, eliminating MED1 expression and significantly decreasing estrogen receptor-controlled target gene production.

Not only did the nanoparticles reduce the growth and spread of the HER2-overexpressing breast cancer tumors, but it sensitized them to tamoxifen treatment.

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"These findings are highly promising for potential clinical treatment of advanced metastatic and tamoxifen-resistant human breast cancer," Zhang said in a press release. "Further studies are still needed and hopefully soon we'll be able to test our nanoparticles in clinical trials at the UC Cancer Institute's Comprehensive Breast Cancer Center."

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