Japanese study suggests parasitic worms could deliver anti-cancer therapies

pharmafile | July 8, 2022 | News story | Medical Communications  

Researchers from Osaka University have released details on how they discovered a unique potential treatment method for cancer: parasitic worms.

The experiment aimed to determine whether the worm’s ability to seek out cancer cells could be used as an advantage. In addition to the parasitic anisakis simplex, researchers used caenorhabditis elegans, or c. elegans for short. These worms are common roundworms that are found in soil, and often used in laboratory research.

Wildan Mubarok, an author of the Osaka study, explained the research team’s findings. “Anisakis simplex has been reported to sense cancer, potentially by detecting cancer ‘odour’ and to attach to cancerous tissues,” he said. “This led us to ask whether it could be used to deliver anti-cancer treatments directly to cancer cells within the human body.”

As part of the study, each worm subject was dipped into chemical solutions to give it a flexible gel-like coating that was roughly 0.01mm thick. The coating was comprised of polysaccharides, synthetic polymers, and proteins. As this coating did not interfere with the worms’ ability to seek out cancer cells, or any of the worms’ other physiological functions, the research team pushed forward with their investigation.

The gel-ish coatings were next loaded with molecules that provide protection which could be useful as the worms enter hosts. In addition to the protective molecules, anti-cancer treatments could be integrated into the solutions that the worms were dipped into. The worms then became parasitic soldiers that could deliver anti-cancer treatments directly to cancer cells, which are tracked using their natural ability.

As Mubarok explained: “Our findings suggest that nematodes could potentially be used to deliver functional cargo to a range of specific targets in the future.”

Lina Adams

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