“Matryoshka” Battles Breast Cancer

By Shlomo  Maital  


     The Nov. 2 issue of The Economist (p. 74, ‘science and technology’) reports on how a brilliant MIT cancer researcher named Paula Hammond may have found a way to defeat triple-negative breast cancer, using a matryoshka doll approach.

  Triple negative cancer is hard to treat and is nearly always fatal.  Its cancer cells are armed with ‘molecular pumps’ that remove anti-cancer drugs used to treat them, by getting inside the cancer cells.  Here is how Hammond’s approach works.

   She created triple-layered chemical bombs, each a few nanometers across.  The outer layer is hyaluronic acid, a sugary polymer that cancer cells love, hence it accumulates inside them.  This homes in on cancer cells and gets inside them, like a Trojan Horse.

   Next layer is made of RNA, or SIRNA, small interfering RNA, tiny genes that interfere with protein production – specifically, in this case, the protein used by the cancer cells to pump out anti-cancer drugs.

  Finally, the inner layer, the payload of the ‘bomb’,  is a standard chemotherapy drug, doxorubicin.  Once the hyaluronic acid gets into the cell, and the SiRNA turns off the protein, the anti-cancer drug blows up the cancer cell. 

   It has been proven to work in mice.  In mice, it shrank the tumors or destroyed them entirely.   Let’s hope Hammond’s matryoshka doll invention gets to market soon, to help women suffering from the worst form of breast cancer.