Brigham researchers demonstrate a systemic Trojan Horse approach for prostate cancer

Xenograph model of wild type human prostate cells from an organoid (a man-made construct that resembles an organ).
(National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute)

Gaining the ability to target a chemotherapy drug specifically to tumor cells, leaving healthy neighboring cells unscathed, is a long-standing goal in the field of cancer therapy.

Now, Brigham and Women’s Hospital researchers show in a proof-of-concept study that administering mesenchymal stem cells loaded with drug-laden microparticles may hold promise in targeting prostate cancer.

The study, headed by Jeffrey Karp and John Isaacs who share authorship, and Oren Levy who is co-lead author, was published in the journal Biomaterials last month.

"In cancer therapeutics, one of the great challenges is finding how to specifically deliver high doses of chemotherapeutics to a tumor, but minimize the systemic toxicity," said Karp in a statement.

In a team-up with Johns Hopkins, they developed microvesicles tethered to a prodrug that is specifically activated when it engages prostate cells. They then used engineered mesenchymal stem cells to ferry the payload specifically to tumor cells.

"Mesenchymal stem cells represent a potential vehicle that can be engineered to seek out tumors," said Levy in the statement. "Loading those cells with a potent chemotherapeutic drug is a promising cell-based Trojan horse approach to deliver drugs to sites of cancer."

"The prodrug only becomes toxic in the presence of the tumor microenvironment, which adds another layer of specificity to this targeted delivery system," said Isaacs in the statement.

As other targeted cancer therapies using a systemic Trojan-horse approach emerge and move into the clinic, the translational value of this work is far reaching.

- here’s the statement
- here’s the abstract

Image courtesy of National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health