Immunotherapy is an extremely promising prospect in cancer treatment. This innovative approach boosts the body’s own immune system to destroy cancer cells.

However, malignant tumors sometimes fool the immune system into thinking they are part of the body and do not need to be combatted.

Researchers in Israel’s Technion-Israel Institute of Technology recently developed an immunotherapy platform that inhibits melanoma using TRAIL proteins from the immune system to induce programmed cell death (apoptosis) of cancer cells specifically.

The platform also utilizes NanoGhost technology invented by Prof. Marcelle Machluf as a drug-delivery vehicle to transport medicine directly to tumor cells. NanoGhost uses reconstructed mesenchymal stem cells, which the immune system treats as natural cells.

Machluf and PhD student Lior Levy successfully integrated the immunotherapy concept, the TRAIL protein, and NanoGhost technology to create a highly efficient drug-delivery system with the active protein on its outer layer.

As described in Advanced Functional Materials, this approach allows reduction of the drug dosage by a factor of a million while maintaining the same treatment effect. In other words, the system can achieve similar results with just 0.0001% of the usual dose.

“This integration turns the NanoGhost platform from a ‘taxi’ that delivers the drug to the target into a ‘tank’ that participates in the war,” said Machluf, whose NanoGhost startup has been successfully treating pancreatic, lung, breast, prostate and brain cancer in mice.

“The integrated platform delivers the drug to the tumor and enables a significant reduction in drug dosage yet still does the job. We also showed that our method does not harm healthy cells.”