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Development of Technology to Carry Therapeutic Genes to Target Cancer Cells

Shinshu University and Toshiba have formulated a tumour-tropic liposome technology for transporting therapeutic genes into cancer cells.

Toshiba Corporation and a team led by Professor Yozo Nakazawa at the Department of Paediatrics, Shinshu University, have together developed a “tumour-tropic liposome technology” for cancer gene therapy. The technology uses unique, nano-sized biodegradable liposomes developed by Toshiba to accurately and efficiently deliver therapeutic genes to targeted cancer cells, and achieves safer gene delivery than viruses used as carriers.

The tumour-tropic liposome developed by Toshiba can deliver therapeutic genes selectively to tumour cells, not normal cells. Shinshu university and Toshiba have demonstrated that the tumour-tropic liposome can deliver the therapeutic gene to T-cell leukaemia cells and achieve a 30-fold increase in uptake and 400-fold increase in gene expression than normal T-cells. The technology is expected to reduce burdens on patients during treatment, and offers the potential to develop new treatments for other cancers.

The technology was presented by Shinshu University and Toshiba at the annual American Society for Gene & Cell Therapy held on 12 May 2020.

In cancer gene therapy, it involves the insertion of therapeutic genes into target cells to repair cell function. While this might offer a promising way to treat cancers, methods of gene therapy have yet to be concrete with many barriers still to overcome.

Transporting the therapeutic genes into a target cell is one of these barriers. Current approaches often achieve this by using a virus as the carrier. However, it brings with concerns for the risk of infection and cell tropism.

Collaboration between Shinshu University and Toshiba have reaped results of utilising biodegradable liposomes as non-virus carriers of therapeutic genes. This led to the development of tumour-tropic liposomes that are able to safely and effectively deliver therapeutic genes to targeted cancer cells.

Toshiba has applied its know-how in materials technology to the design of liposomes with lipids that degrade naturally in cells, as their major component. Toshiba will continue to contribute its specialized capabilities in materials science to the collaboration with Shinshu University, in support of further enhancing the delivery and application of cancer-directed liposomes and promoting the widespread use of gene therapy. [APBN]