A team of Israeli researchers said it has developed a new method for delivering chemotherapy that could, in the future, be used to treat cancer patients with fewer harmful side effects.
The findings by researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, as well as from Germany, were published last month in an issue of the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology, the university said in a statement Wednesday.
The study was aimed at finding a way to fight cancer cells without harming healthy cells. Current methods harm both, causing extensive side effects that force many patients to stop the treatment prematurely.
While cautioning that the work of translating their theoretical method into practice is “not trivial,” the researchers said they hope it could eventually “revolutionize chemotherapy.”
“Most anti-cancer treatments are not sufficiently specific, meaning they attack healthy cells together with the malignant ones they’re trying to get rid of,” explained Prof. Alexander Binshtok, head of the Pain Plasticity Research Group at Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine, who headed the team.
“This leads to the many serious side effects associated with chemotherapy,” Binshtok said. “Eliminating cancerous cells while leaving healthy ones alone is an important step toward reducing patients’ suffering.”
He added: “It’s too early to make concrete predictions but we are hopeful this discovery will lead the way toward a new, more targeted delivery method for chemotherapy treatment, one that will drastically reduce patients’ pain.”
In the statement, Hebrew University said the discovery could “allow doctors to reduce chemo doses for patients, thereby reducing the unpleasant side effects associated with the treatment, and improve treatment compliance and overall prognoses.”
Regarding the specifics of the new method, the statement said the study was focused on the selective expression of the TRPV2 protein by cancer cells, and that when activated, that protein opens a canal inside cell membranes.
“Binshtok and his team studied liver cancer cells and were able to successfully insert a low dose of doxorubicin, a chemotherapeutic agent, through the canal and directly into cancer cells,” the statement said. “In the future, the precision of this delivery method may allow doctors to prescribe lower chemo doses and to relieve patients from some of the harsher effects of chemo.”