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Huntington's 'super assassin' molecule could kill cancer

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These findings need to be confirmed by other labs but are stunning if they are correct. This discovery could provide a low cost solution to many cancers. Will Big Pharma pick upon this or ignore it?

Quote

The team tested the effects of the small interfering RNAs produced by the repeated sequences in human and mouse cancer cells grown from laboratory cell lines.

They tested them in brain, breast, colon, liver, lung, ovarian, and skin cancer cells. The "assassin molecules" killed all the cancer cells from both human and mouse cell lines.

They also tested the molecules' effects on live mice with human ovarian cancer. The molecules were delivered in nanoparticles that released their cargo when they reached the tumors.

siRNA

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Presumably the "assassin molecule" is not itself involved in Huntington's disease, or could be restricted to the target tumour.

On a more general point I find these reports of potential cancer cures poignant. Practical applications are typically many years, even decades away, yet the individuals to whom they are likely to be of intense interest do not have years.

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I think the assassin molecule is central to the development of Huntington's disease but that a short exposure could destroy cancers before the brain is affected.  However, it is poignant that people who desperately need the treatment have to wait for Science to come through. 

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Holy potato, that article was horrible. Luckily they had a link to the actual report. The molecule in question is a simple sRNA, so the approach falls under the siRNA therapeutics. Generally these have been problematic to implement due to a number of reasons related to e.g. drug delivery and precise targeting. What the authors did for the mouse model are using nanparticles for delivery. Both are not trivial to translate to human therapeutics.

Two additional things: killing in vitro is not super useful in itself. There are thousands of candidates that are not useful as therapeutics for a number of reasons. While the mouse model makes it a bit more interesting, it is still a huge gap and there are concerns regarding the reliability of siRNA therapeutics. I am not sure whether recent advances have successfully overcome those.

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If you mean approved for therapeutic use, yes there are some, not a huge amount, though. Most are not used for highly targeted delivery per se, but rather as adjuvants for vaccines for example or used in formulation to alter solubility and/or general bioavailability. Others include degradable implants etc. There are also few liposomal delivery systems that increase delivery to tumour sites for "classic" anti-tumour agents. Essentially they increase uptake rate by tumours (as they tend to be more active) over regular tissue. But it does not result in exclusive delivery. Note that nanoparticles are already in general use in all kind of regular products ranging from personal care products to fabrics. Their implementation in drugs is not a huge thing, but targeted delivery is still quite a bit of a challenge.

I just checked out RNA therapeutics and after ~30 years of development only six seemed to have found to have clinical benefits. Not sure regarding their approval status.

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This property of Huntington disease has long been thought but not 'proven'.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10506723

This anti cancer activity might be a property of polyglutamine (polyQ) diseases. The polyglutamine (polyQ) diseases are a group of neurodegenerative disorders caused by expanded cytosine-adenine-guanine (CAG) repeats encoding a long polyQ tract in the respective proteins. To date, a total of nine polyQ disorders have been described: six spinocerebellar ataxias (SCA) types 1, 2, 6, 7, 17; Machado-Joseph disease (MJD/SCA3); Huntington's disease (HD); dentatorubral pallidoluysian atrophy (DRPLA); and spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy, X-linked 1 (SMAX1/SBMA).

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24816443

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