Researchers Use Military Strategy To Come Up With Breakthrough Ovarian Cancer Treatment

Ovarian cancer ( cancer ( You've heard the expression "War On Cancer."  Well, even though that war has included ovarian cancer, there has not been much success in fighting this fatal disease in more than thirty years.  Here's news though from Dartmouth Medical School, whose researchers took on ovarian cancer with a military strategy called the Trojan Horse.

Ovarian cancer cells are very effective at co-opting surrounding dendritic phagocytes (major players in our immune systems) to do their dirty work.  While the phagocytes gather near cancer cells to try to fight the infection, the cancer cells corrupt them into protectors instead of fighters.

The brilliant plan of the researchers at Dartmouth Medical School was to reprogram the phagocytes to come back to work for "the good guys" and fight the cancer cells like they were meant to do.  They experimented with lab mice who had ovarian cancer, injecting nanoparticles of a polymer often used in other cancer testing.  The difference, though, is that this research targeted the phagocytes with the polymer nanoparticles, and not the cancer cells themselves.

Fortunately, the dendritic phagocytes really took to the polymer nanoparticles, which triggered an inflammatory immune response in the phagocytes, returning them to their "fighter" status.  Now on the side of the "good guys" again, they attacked and killed the cancer cells.

"That's the beautiful part of [the] story—people usually inject these nanoparticles to target tumor cells. But we found that these dendritic cells that are commonly present in ovarian cancer were preferentially and avidly engulfing the nanoparticles. We couldn't find any tumor cells taking up the nanoparticles, only the dendritic cells residing in the tumor," explained Juan R. Cubillos-Ruiz, graduate student and first author.

Human ovarian cancer cells have shown a similar  positive response to polymer nanoparticle stimulation in the lab.  Because these nanoparticles can be inserted directly into the peritoneal cavity where the phagocytes could take them up, the researchers find promise in this form of intervention for ovarian cancer and believe that their "Trojan Horse" strategy would enhance current chemotherapy and other ovarian cancer treatments.

Perhaps military strategies such as Trojan Horse will be used in future research to find treatments for other diseases that break down our imune systems?




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