Israeli researchers at a small pharmaceutical company, Accelerated Evolution Biotechnologies Ltd. (AEBi), are confident they can offer “a complete cure for cancer” within a year’s time.
At the moment, cancer is the largest social and economic burden plaguing the 21st century. With more than 18 million new cases just in 2018, as estimated by the World Health Organization, this might be a tall order, but the team is certain of their endeavor.
Dan Aridor, Chairman of AEBi, stated that: “Our cancer cure will be effective from day one, will last a duration of a few weeks and will have no or minimal side-effects at a much lower cost than most other treatments on the market. Our solution will be both generic and personal”.
The concept behind the treatment, which they are calling MuTaTo (multi-target toxin), is essentially a sort of cancer antibiotic made possible by a groundbreaking technology created by Founder and CEO Ilan Morad, Ph.D., the SoAP platform.
Back in 2000, Dr. Morad was gripped by the idea of creating a functional Phage Display. This is a molecular tool used to analyze interactions between proteins and peptides, short chains of amino acids, or DNA interactions involving bacteriophages. Splicing DNA code inside an antibody, for example, allows the phage to “display” the protein on the surface, resulting in a connection between genotype and phenotype. This permits investigators to screen for interactions with other proteins, DNA sequences or small molecules.
In fact, the 2018 Nobel Prize for Chemistry was awarded to a team of scientists working on a phage display for antibodies and enzymes.
The researchers at AEBi are following a similar path, but are focused on peptides. In comparison to antibodies, these have the advantage of being smaller, inexpensive and easier to produce and regulate. “The ability to manipulate and design peptides has vastly superior advantages to many, if not any, existing and trajectory technologies of drug development”.
Before attempting to design his therapy, Morad wanted to identify the reason why other cancer drugs and treatments are ineffective or fail in time. He noticed that most are focused on a single specific target on or in the cancer cell. As the disease mutates, however, this target often becomes irrelevant, and so the effect of the drug becomes limited.
MuTaTo, on the other hand, employs several cancer-targeting peptides along with a strong peptide toxin that destroys the specific cancer cells. Three or more targeting peptides are used to ensure that the treatment will not be affected by mutations.
“The probability of having multiple mutations that would modify all targeted receptors simultaneously decreases dramatically with the number of targets used”, explained Dr. Morad. “Instead of attacking receptors one at a time, we attack receptors three at a time – not even cancer can mutate three receptors at the same time”.
Another mechanism through which tumors escape being eradicated is through detoxification. The cells basically eliminate the drugs or modify them to be non-functional. With MuTaTo, the toxin activates and kills them before they have a chance to react.
Some anticancer treatments are only directed at fast-growing cells, though cancer stem cells are not fast growing. This means that once the treatment is over, they can reinitiate their malignant activity.
“If it does not completely annihilate the cancer, the remaining cells can start to get mutations again, and then the cancer comes back, but this time it is drug-resistant”, noted the researcher.
As it is based on peptides, MuTaTo can also access places where other large molecules, like antibodies, cannot reach.
“This should make the whole molecule non-immunogenic in most cases and would enable repeated administration of the drug”.
The approach would also spare patients from many of the adverse effects associated with cytotoxic treatments. Often times, healthy cells or ones that happen to synthetizes proteins common that are common for both, end up in the crossfire.
“This makes a great difference between the two kinds of cells and should decrease the side effects dramatically”, Morad said.
The AEBi website presents a proof of concept, detailing how copies of EGFR targeting peptides interact with several cancers, including epithelial carcinoma and breast cancer. From the data presented, the procedure appears to be successful in eliminating all trace of cancerous cells.
The team recently completed initial laboratory tests, managing to inhibit cancer cell growth while at the same time highlighting no effect on healthy tissue. A clinical trial is expected to begin in the near future.
Aridor emphasized that results are “consistent and repeatable”.
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