Researchers at the Biomedical Research Institute Sant Pau (IIB Sant Pau) of the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, together with researchers at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), the Spanish Scientific Research Council (CSIC) and the Network for Biomedical Research in the Bioengineering, Biomaterials and Nanomedicine Network (CIBER-BBN), have published an article in one of the most prestigious international scientific journals in the field of Molecular Medicine, EMBO Molecular Medicine. This article demonstrates the efficacy of a nanopharmaceutical developed by this team that selectively eliminates metastatic stem cells in animal models of colon cancer.
The research team, led by Dr Ramon Mangues (IIB Sant Pau), Prof Antonio Villaverde (UAB) and Dr Esther Vázquez (UAB), all members of the CIBER-BBN, have demonstrated that the drug acts only on metastasis initiating cells, through the specific interaction between a peptide present in the protein nanoparticle that transports it and the cellular receptor CXCR4 that is overexpressed in tumour cells. This allows targeting only tumour cells, to block their dissemination at early cancer stages, by preventing the appearance of metastasis while avoiding the adverse effects associated with conventional chemotherapy.
The CXCR4 receptor is overexpressed in at least 20 different cancer types, including prostate, breast, ovary and others not as common as the pancreas. This means that the nanoparticle can achieve targeted drug delivery in different tumor types, therefore, being a highly versatile vehicle that could transport different highly potent therapeutic molecules.
Currently, no drug in the market is capable of selectively eliminating metastatic stem cells. Therefore, this new discovery could have a high clinical impact, after carrying out the required regulatory studies, before their application in humans. The Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau in Barcelona would be the first Centre in the world to evaluate this drug in humans, prior to its possible introduction in clinical therapy.
Nanoligent, a new spin-off to finance the nanoparticle
In June 2017, researchers from the IIB-Sant Pau, the Institute of Biotechnology and Biomedicine at the UAB and the CIBER-BBN, who sign the article now published in EMBO Molecular Medicine, created a spin-off, Nanoligent, with the goal of developing the first drug designed to eliminate metastatic cells that could enter the market.
This company, which has more than 10 years of studies behind, is directed by Dr. Manuel Rodríguez Mariscal, a professional with a long experience in the field of investment and the creation of biotechnology companies and aims to obtain founding for the realization of the project.