Gene transporter destroys breast cancer cells

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Gene transporter destroys breast cancer

Scientists have developed a technology that targets and destroys breast cancer cells by injecting a gene directly into breast cancer cells. With new technology, breast cancer patients with metastasis to the bone could receive the injection prior to chemotherapy and radiation that is expected to enter clinical trials within five years.

Unique gene transport system uses nanoparticles to destroy breast cancer

The transport system is called the Designer Biomimetic Vector (DBV) that uses nanoparticles smaller than human hair to deliver the iNOS gene. The DBV then releases nitric oxide that either destroys breast cancer cells or makes them more vulnerable to radiation and chemotherapy without affecting healthy breast tissue.


Dr Helen McCarthy, from Queen’s School of Pharmacy placed the iNOS gene inside a nanoparticle that is 400 times smaller than a human hair. The next step is to turn the nanoparticles into a powder that can be prepared for patient injection.

Dr. McCarthy explains, “A major stumbling block to using gene therapy in the past has been the lack of an effective delivery system. Combining the Designer Biomimetic Vector with the iNOS gene has proved successful in killing breast cancer cells in the laboratory. In the long term, I see this being used to treat people with metastatic breast cancer that has spread to the bones, ideally administered before radiotherapy and chemotherapy.”

The research, though in early stages of development, show promise for improving breast cancer treatment. Laboratory studies found nitric oxide released by nanoparticle delivery of the iNOS gene, that is toxic to breast cancer cells could make chemotherapy and radiation more effective for patients with metastasis to the bone and other organs.