Israeli scientists claim major cancer breakthrough using ‘tiny scissors’
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Israeli scientists claim major cancer breakthrough using ‘tiny scissors’

Groundbreaking gene editing system using Nobel Prize-winning technology destroys cancerous cells while leaving everything around them intact.

Tali is a reporter at Jewish News

Cancer cells (Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash)
Cancer cells (Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash)

Israeli scientists have claimed a major breakthrough in the fight against cancer after using Nobel Prize winning technology to destroy cancerous cells in mice, leaving everything around them intact.

In what researchers have called a world first, the study from Tel Aviv University suggests the CRISPR Cas-9 gene editing system, which allows scientists to make precise alterations to DNA, can be used like “tiny scissors” to target and treat cancer in animals.

The technology, which gained its creators the Nobel Prize for Chemistry this year, was examined by cancer expert Professor Dan Peer, who said that there are “no side effects” from the process.

“This technology can extend the life expectancy of cancer patients and we hope, one day, cure the disease”, Prof. Peer said after his peer-reviewed research was published in the Science Advances journal.

“If we can use this technology, then within three treatments we can destroy a tumour. This technology can physically cut the DNA in cancerous cells, and those cells will not survive.”

An illustration of the genome editing technique, with scissors showing where DNA is to be “cut.” (courtesy of Tel Aviv University)

Peer told the Times of Israel that there are hopes the process will eventually replace chemotherapy – a technique that, unlike the process used in the Tel Aviv study, is administered to the whole body.

His research involved hundreds of mice with two of the most aggressive types of cancer – glioblastoma, a brain cancer, and metastatic ovarian cancer.

The mice who received treatment were found to have double the life expectancy of the control group, with a 30 percent higher survival rate for glioblastoma and an 80 percent higher survival rate for metastatic ovarian cancer.

Peer said that his team plan to develop the treatment for all cancers and that the technique could be ready to use on humans within two years.

Treatment would be personalised to each patient based on a biopsy which would determine whether they received a general injection or an injection directly into the tumour.

“”It will probably take some time before the new treatment can be used in humans, but we are optimistic”, Professor Peer said.

“When we first spoke of treatments with mRNA twelve years ago, people thought it was science fiction.

“I believe that in the near future, we will see many personalized treatments based on genetic messengers – for both cancer and genetic diseases.”

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