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Technion team targets nerve cells on breast tumors in Awareness Month


A team of researchers at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology have recently found a novel way of attacking cancer cells – using analgesic nanoparticles to target nerve cells surrounding the tumor and effectively paralyzing it.

Breast Cancer Awareness month is being marked in October, reminding us that approximately one of every eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Professor Avi Schroeder spent years working on innovative breast cancer treatments, specifically triple-negative breast cancer, an aggressive type that does not respond to hormonal therapy.

In research in collaboration with Ph.D. student Maya Kaduri, the two discovered that cancer cells have a symbiotic relationship with nerve cells. In fact, the tumors seem to call forth nerves to enter into the growth, and thus help it grow and spread.

The two researchers designed a treatment that attacks the nerve cells and using anesthesia-based nanoparticles that are injected into the blood, the drug reaches the tumor and paralyzes it, severing the connection between cancer and the nerve cells. And what then? The tumor stops – or, at least, slows – growth. Most importantly, the cancer cells have a harder time metastasizing and spreading.

“We know how to create the exact size of particles needed, and that is critical because it’s the key to penetrating the tumor,” said Kaduri. “the anesthetizing particles we developed move through the bloodstream without penetrating healthy tissue.” 

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The nanoparticles used are coated with polymers that allow them to slip unnoticed through the immune system and reach the tumor. The treatment is embedded into each particle.

The article, which was published in Science Advanced, opens the door to a new approach to cancer treatment and suggests that reducing nerve involvement in tumors is important for treating the disease.

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