March 7, 2018
A new adjuvant (or auxiliary) therapy developed in the Hammond and Yaffe laboratories shows great promise for improving outcomes against ovarian cancer. The team's RNA-peptide nanoplexes, described in Bioengineering & Translational Medicine, profoundly sensitized mice with aggressive ovarian tumors to standard chemotherapy, extending median survival by 37% over chemotherapy alone and decreasing metastatic spread to the lungs, all without observable side effects. The nanoplexes — tiny conjugates of gene-silencing siRNA and protective peptides — block the MK2 cell signaling pathway, which several cancers use to resist the effects of chemotherapy. Studies of this approach are underway in additional tumor types and more advanced models. This work, featured in the 2017 KI Image Awards exhibition, is a classic example of the KI’s convergence-driven cancer research: the Yaffe Lab previously showed that shutting down MK2 makes tumors more responsive to chemotherapy, and absent a suitable small molecule inhibitor of MK2, they turned to siRNA and enlisted help from the Hammond Lab to protect and deliver it. The research was supported in part by the Charles and Marjorie Holloway Foundation, by the S. Leslie Misrock (1949) Frontier Research Fund for Cancer Nanotechnology, and by a Department of Defense Ovarian Cancer Teal Innovator Award to Hammond.