UT Southwestern team says new liver cancer therapy shows promise in mice

UT Southwestern's Daniel Siegwart

Advanced liver cancer is one of the toughest targets in biotech. But investigators at UT Southwestern say that a dendrimer nanoparticle used to carry microRNA directly to tumor cells has the potential to target the cancer and suppress tumors while sparing surrounding tissue.

"We have synthesized highly effective dendrimer carriers that can deliver drugs to tumor cells without adverse side effects, even when the cancerous liver is consumed by the disease," said Dr. Daniel Siegwart, assistant professor of biochemistry and with the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center, in a statement. "We found that efficacy required a combination of a small RNA drug that can suppress cancer growth and the carrier, thereby solving a critical issue in treating aggressive liver cancer and providing a guide for future drug development." The work was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The 5-year survival rate for liver cancer is 17%, says the group. And drugs that work in healthy livers spur lethal toxicity in cirrhotic livers.

"Early-stage disease can be cured with surgery, but there are few options for cirrhotic patients with advanced liver cancers," said Dr. Hao Zhu at UT Southwestern. MicroRNAs have long been considered an option, but researchers have to find a nonthreatening delivery vehicle.

The team says that they studied more than 1,500 potential nano carriers before identifying the best one for navigating a diseased liver. And this approach proved promising in mice.

- here's the release
- read the journal abstract