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Nanoparticles with Diphtheria Toxin Gene Target Ovarian Cancer

Nanoparticles containing the gene for a diphtheria toxin suicide protein can effectively suppress ovarian tumor growth in mice, according to a team of researchers from MIT and collaborating institutions. The findings could lead to a new treatment for ovarian cancer, which now causes more than 15,000 deaths each year in the United States. Because it is usually diagnosed at a relatively late stage, ovarian cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer. Currently, ovarian cancer patients undergo surgery followed by chemotherapy. In many cases, the cancer returns after treatment, and there are no good therapies for recurring and advanced-stage tumors. The new nanoparticles are made with positively charged, biodegradable polymers known as poly(beta-amino esters). When mixed together, these polymers can spontaneously assemble with DNA to form nanoparticles. The polymer-DNA nanoparticle can deliver functional DNA when injected into or near the targeted tissue. The packaged diphtheria toxin gene produces a diphtheria toxin suicide protein which kills cells by disrupting their ability to manufacture proteins. This work is reported in the August 1 issue of Cancer Research. [Press release] [Cancer Research abstract]