Thanks to a new RNA-based experimental drug that was developed at the Duke University Medical Center, there may be a new treatment available in the fight against prostate cancer on the horizon.
The new drug, which has yet to be officially named and is the first of its kind, works by tricking its way into prostate cancer cells. Once inside these dangerous cells, the drug then takes action and starts destroying them. The benefit is that while the drug is wiping out the malignant cells while leaving the healthy cells alone.
The drug targets one type of genetic material – “ribonucleic acid” (RNA) — which allows it to enter the prostate cancer cells, and another, called “silencing RNA,” in order to stop the functioning of a protein that keeps the cells alive.
In tests involving the drug, researchers looked at mice with prostate cancer and gave them the therapy. They used two test groups, one that received the drug and one that did not. The researchers injected the one group of mice with the drug once every two days, with a total of 10 injections in 20 days.
The drug managed to shrink the size of the animals’ tumors in half. In the mice that didn’t get the drug, the tumors kept on growing. The best part? The mice showed no signs of experiencing any side effects from taking the drug.
The drug only targets cancer cells, which it does in a two- step process. It combines two RNA “modules” that function in specific stages. The process is quite fascinating: the one module contains targeting RNA. This attaches to a protein found only on the surface of the prostate cancer cell.
When it attaches, the cancer cell swallows up the RNA module, where once inside, the second module, which contains the aforementioned silencing RNA, takes action. The silencing seeks out and binds itself to the RNA of a specific cancer-causing protein inside the deadly cell and destroys it. This action eventually ends up killing the entire cell, all while leaving healthy cells alone.
The study was published in August’s issue of Nature Biotechnology and was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
For now, Duke researchers have filed for a provisional patent for the breakthrough drug, which for the first time ever has shown that RNA-based treatments for cancer are a possibility. However, keep in mind that as with any new drug, there is a long and arduous process ahead in order to secure human testing and patent approval, along with funding. The entire process can take years.
According to the lead author of the study, James McNamara, PhD, “This study represents the first step in creating an RNA-based drug for cancer. It provides a ‘proof of principle’ that an entirely RNA-based drug can work with minimal side effects, and it shows it is possible to overcome many of the obstacles that have hampered the development of RNA-based drugs.”
In the past, many researchers and scientists have experimented with developing an RNA-based drug or therapy aimed specifically at treating cancer, but often they came up with poor results, many roadblocks, and a lot of frustration. This is what makes the new drug from Duke University such a breakthrough. It provides a new avenue of therapy — and hope — in the fight against prostate cancer.
We’ll keep you posted on any new developments when it comes to this new RNA-based drug as they become available.