Israeli scientists say they have used ground-breaking technology to destroy cancerous cells in mice without damaging others, in what they say is a world first.
The CRISPR Cas-9 gene editing system allows scientists to make precise alterations to DNA, and gained creators Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier the Nobel Prize for Chemistry this year.
Research from Tel Aviv University now suggests the system can be used to treat cancer in animals, according to Professor Dan Peer whose peer-reviewed research was published in the Science Advances journal.
The cancer expert told the Times of Israel that there are ‘no side effects’ from the process, which he described as ‘a more elegant chemotherapy’.
‘We believe that a cancer cell treated in this way will never become active again,’ he said.
Israeli scientists say they have used the ground-breaking CRISPR Cas-9 gene editing technology to destroy cancerous cells in mice without damaging others, in what they say is a world first. Pictured: A visualisation of how CRISPR can ‘edit’ and ‘delete’ parts of a cell’s DNA [Stock image]
‘This technology can extend the life expectancy of cancer patients and we hope, one day, cure the disease,’ Peer said, adding that the technique can destroy a tumour within three treatments.
‘This technology can physically cut the DNA in cancerous cells, and those cells will not survive.’
Peer told the Times of Israel that he hopes the process will eventually replace chemotherapy – an aggressive form of treatment that can have serious side effects for patients.
Unlike the technique piloted in the Tel Aviv University research, chemotherapy is administered to the whole body.
A visualisation of cancerous cells growing on another cell in a human. New research from Tel Aviv University has suggested that cancer cells could be killed inside the body without damaging any other cells [Stock image]
The 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% higher survival rate, Science Advances reported.
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.
Professor Dan Peer, a cancer specialist at Tel Aviv University, hopes the technique will one day replace chemotherapy
Currently, CRISPR Cas-9 is only used for rare diseases on cells that have already been removed from the body.
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.
Peer said that the injection consists of messenger RNA that ‘encodes’ the ‘tiny scissor function’ for snipping the DNA, a system for identifying cancerous cells and a lipid nanoparticle.
‘When we first spoke of treatments with messenger RNA twelve years ago, people thought it was science fiction,’ Peer told the Times of Israel.
‘I believe that in the near future, we will see many personalised treatments based on genetic messengers, for cancer and various genetic diseases.
‘The technology needs to be further developed, but the main thing is we have shown that this can kill cancer cells’.