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Tuesday, August 14, 2018, 00:03
CityU develops cancer drug carrier to cut costs by 99%
By Kathy Zhang
Tuesday, August 14, 2018, 00:03 By Kathy Zhang

HONG KONG – City University of Hong Kong’s Department of Biomedical Sciences (BMS) has developed a method to produce cancer-killing drug carriers from red blood cells, potentially cutting costs to 1 percent of existing ones, the department said.

Le Minh said it can purify 1,000 times more EVs from red blood cells, conquering the biggest challenge of the technology

Though previous studies have shown that drug carriers – extracellular vesicles (EVs) –  are good delivery vehicles in blood cells for gene therapy against diseases, obtaining highly pure and homogenous EVs is time-consuming and not scalable, research team leader Le Minh, assistant professor of CityU’s BMS, said.

The new method helps to solve the problem and deliver enough drug carriers to fight cancer. Le said it can purify 1,000 times more EVs from red blood cells, conquering the biggest challenge of the technology. In addition, the newly devised approach’s efficiency rate is high, reaching 80 percent, Le said.

The project is co-run by Le’s lab team and another team led by assistant professor of BMS Shi Jiahai.

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Meanwhile, the research team also found that the new method is safer than common vehicles for drug delivery which are usually, immunogenic or with toxicity. As red blood cells carry no DNA, it effectively lowers the toxicity by producing EVs from red blood cells, Le said.

The new method can be used against different cancers, including leukemia and thalassemia, two diseases which currently no effective cure, according to Shi.

Introducing such gene therapy can be applied only by injection, at an estimated cost of HK$3,000 per injection, Shi said.

Shi added there are still several steps, such clinical trials, before the application of the new method in cancer therapy can be used on human beings.

“We hope the new strategy can be applied to the market within five years”, Shi said, adding the actual time depends on the strength of the collaborative enterprise.

Hong Kong’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Queen Mary Hospital and the Genome Institute of Singapore also supported the research.

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