Scientists at Tel Aviv University are using cutting-edge nanotechnology to tackle ovarian cancer with a new drug-delivery system designed to target specific cells.

The team developed the innovative approach, which releases chemotherapy drugs direct to tumours, partly to reduce the toxic side effects of anti-cancer therapies.

To his relief, the University’s Prof. Dan Peer was able to report seeing a 25-fold increase in tumour-accumulated medication and a dramatic dip in toxic accumulation in healthy organs.

“Tumours become resistant very quickly,” said Peer. “Following the first, second, and third courses of chemotherapy, the tumours start pumping drugs out of the cells as a survival mechanism.”

Most patients with tumour cells beyond the ovaries relapse and ultimately die due to the development of drug resistance, he explained.

The nanoparticles his team developed are called gagomers. They are made of fats and coated with a kind of polysugar.

“We wanted to create a safe drug-delivery system, which wouldn’t harm the body’s immune system or organs,” he said.

Ovarian cancer accounts for more deaths of American women than any other cancer of the female reproductive system, and Peer chose to tackle ovarian cancer in his research because his own mother-in-law passed away at the age of 54 from the disease.

“She received all the courses of chemotherapy and survived only a year and a half,” he said. “She died from the drug-resistant aggressive tumours.

“At the end of the day, you want to do something natural, simple, and smart, to create less toxic, focused drug that combats aggressive drug-resistant cancerous cells,” he said.

“We hope the concept will be harnessed in the next few years in clinical trials on aggressive tumours.”