SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Almost 20,000 women will be told they have ovarian cancer this year. Almost 13,000 will die from it. It’s a hard cancer to treat but now, researchers are hoping something called “drug factories” will not only kill ovarian cancer, but also transform the way we think about treating other diseases.
Gilda Michel remembers how she felt before she got her diagnosis.
“I was losing a lot of weight. My stomach was not getting any smaller. It was hurting a lot.”
It turned out to be worse than she thought.
“I had tumors in my ovaries,” Michel says.
Even with chemo, radiation, and surgery, for people like Michel, diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer, there’s a 50-50 chance they’ll survive it. But now, researchers at Rice University are trying out a new implantable approach.
Rice University bioengineer, Omid Veiseh shows Ivanhoe the drug and says, “Have this implant actually be loaded with engineered cells, that would secrete a biologic that would activate the immune system.”
Bioengineers implanted drug factories – the size of a pinhead – to deliver continuous, high doses of Interleukin-2, a natural compound that activates white blood cells to fight cancer.
“Where we need the drug is actually right next to the tumor,” Professor Veiseh explains.
Preliminary studies in mice show it’s working!
“We’ve shown that in as little as six days, we see the cancer completely gone,” Professor Veiseh explains to Ivanhoe.
It eliminated the tumors in 100 percent of the animals with ovarian cancer. And when the mice were injected a second time with the cells from the same cancerous tumor, they were now protected against it.
Professor Veiseh says, “Which suggests that the immune cells that have learned what the cancer looks like, they can now migrate throughout the body, find and destroy the cancer, wherever it may be.”
Giving survivors like Michel new hope that they will beat this deadly disease.
The implant is administered just once but the drug factories keep making the dose every day until the cancer is eliminated. Human clinical trials could begin as soon as this fall. Researchers believe drug factories could change the way we treat not only cancer, but type one diabetes, immune diseases, and genetic disorders.
Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer, Editor.
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TOPIC: DRUG “FACTORIES” KILL CANCER IN 6 DAYS: MEDICINE’S NEXT BIG THING?
REPORT: MB #5068
BACKGROUND: When ovarian cancer first develops, it might not cause any noticeable symptoms. When ovarian cancer symptoms happen, they’re usually attributed to other, more common conditions. Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer may include abdominal bloating or swelling, quickly feeling full when eating, weight loss, discomfort in the pelvic area, fatigue, back pain, changes in bowel habits, such as constipation, and a frequent need to urinate. It’s not clear what causes ovarian cancer, though doctors have identified things that can increase the risk of the disease. Doctors know that ovarian cancer begins when cells in or near the ovaries develop changes in their DNA. A cell’s DNA contains the instructions that tell the cell what to do. The changes tell the cells to grow and multiply quickly, creating a mass of cancer cells. The cancer cells continue living when healthy cells would die. They can invade nearby tissues and break off from an initial tumor to spread to other parts of the body.
DIAGNOSING: To confirm ovarian cancer doctors will perform tests and procedures including a pelvic exam, imaging tests, such as ultrasound or CT scans of your abdomen and pelvis, and blood tests that might include organ function tests that can help determine your overall health. A doctor might also recommend surgery because sometimes they can’t be certain of your diagnosis until you undergo surgery to remove an ovary and have it tested for signs of cancer. Your doctor may also recommend testing a sample of your blood to look for gene changes that increase the risk of ovarian cancer. Knowing you have an inherited change in your DNA helps your doctor make decisions about your treatment plan. You may wish to share the information with your blood relatives, such as your siblings and your children, since they also may have a risk of having those same gene changes. Once it’s confirmed that you have ovarian cancer, your doctor will use information from your tests and procedures to assign your cancer a stage. The stages of ovarian cancer range from 1 to 4, which are often indicated with Roman numerals I to IV. The lowest stage indicates that the cancer is confined to the ovaries. By stage 4, the cancer has spread to distant areas of the body.
TREATMENT: Treatment for ovarian cancer usually involves a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. In surgery doctors remove cancerous tissue, and with chemotherapy use special medicines to shrink or kill the cancer. The drugs can be pills you take, or medicines given in your veins, or sometimes both. Different treatments may be provided by different doctors on your medical team. Gynecologic oncologists are doctors who have been trained to treat cancers of a woman’s reproductive system. They perform surgery and give chemotherapy. Medical oncologists are doctors who treat cancer with medicine. (Source: https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/ovarian/basic_info/treatment.htm)
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