A team of researchers has developed cancer-targeting peptides that could be used as “guided missiles” to treat various cancers and cancer stem cells without harming normal cells.
The research team last year won the National Innovation Award for its Fn cancer-targeting peptide technology, Chang Gung University Institute of Stem Cell and Translational Cancer Research director John Yu (游正博) told a news conference at the Ministry of Science and Technology in Taipei yesterday.
The team used computer-aided methods and novel scoring algorithms to design cancer-targeting peptides, which can guide various types of therapeutics to cancer cells, said Yu, an expert on stem cells and regenerative medicine.
Some cancer drugs are inefficient and cause painful side effects, because they cannot precisely target cancer cells, he said.
While other patented cancer-targeting peptides can only target a single cancer type, the team’s peptides can identify at least 11, including ovarian, gastric, lung, liver, breast, colorectal and pancreatic cancers, as demonstrated by laboratory and animal tests, Yu said.
The team’s peptides do not bind to healthy breast, peripheral blood, vascular endothelial cells or dermal fibroblasts, he said.
Instead of developing a drug for a specific cancer type — which can be a fairly time-consuming process — the team’s technology would help facilitate treatment for a variety of cancers, Yu said.
While there might be a long way to go before the technology could be used in clinical treatment, the team hopes that clinical experiments would start soon with advanced ovarian and gastric cancers, he said.
With the help of the ministry, the university and the government-funded Development Center for Biotechnology, the team last year established a start-up, UCT Bioscience, Yu said, adding that as he is focused on academic research, he did not take up a post at the firm.
Yu was last year a member of a delegation led by Minister of Science and Technology Chen Liang-gee (陳良基) to a conference in Washington between the ministry and the US National Institutes of Health.
Following the conference, Yu said that he is now working on new cancer therapeutics using the proprietary platform and the US agency’s technology.
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