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A study conducted by researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden has shown promising results in delivering targeted cancer treatment using small membrane bubbles, known as extracellular vesicles, that cells use to communicate. These tiny bubbles, which contain signalling molecules, have gained interest in the medical field as potential carriers for medicines. In this study, the researchers loaded these bubbles with a chemotherapeutic drug and attached antibodies against tumours to their surface, creating a targeted cancer treatment that also acts as immunotherapy. When injected into mice with breast cancer or melanoma, the treatment reduced tumour growth and improved survival rates.

According to Oscar Wiklander, a physician and researcher at the Department of Laboratory Medicine at Karolinska Institutet, the use of different antibodies allows for the targeting of these bubbles to various tissues, providing flexibility for potential use in other diseases and cancer types. The hope is that this new treatment will be more specific and effective in eliminating tumour cells while sparing healthy tissue, compared to current treatment strategies. Future research will involve investigating different combinations of antibodies and drugs to further improve the treatment and potentially deliver mRNA as an anticancer drug. The ultimate goal is to develop a new treatment platform that enhances efficacy and reduces side effects in challenging-to-treat diseases like cancer.

The study was primarily funded by the Swedish Cancer Society, the Swedish Research Council, the European Research Council (ERC), and CIMED. Some of the authors involved in the research have financial interests in Evox Therapeutics, a company involved in the development of this treatment. This targeted cancer treatment using extracellular vesicles offers a promising approach to delivering chemotherapy and immunotherapy specifically to tumour cells, demonstrating potential for more effective treatment with fewer side effects. Further research and development of this treatment platform could lead to significant advancements in cancer therapy and potentially other difficult-to-treat diseases.

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