Professor Sebyung Kang, Professor Sung Ho Park, and their research team in the...
Professor Sebyung Kang, Professor Sung Ho Park, and their research team in the Department of Biological Sciences at UNIST.

Image source: UNIST

News • Promising approach

Researchers use nanodrones for targeted cancer treatment

A new study led by Professor Sebyung Kang and Professor Sung Ho Park in the Department of Biological Sciences at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) could mark a breakthrough in cancer treatment.

The research team has successfully developed unprecedented “NK cell-engaging nanodrones” capable of selectively targeting and eliminating cancer cells, offering a potential solution for intractable types of cancers. The study was published in the journal Nano Today

The innate lymphoid cells known as natural killer (NK) cells play a vital role in the body’s immune response against cancer. Numerous efforts have been made to harness the power of NK cells to develop effective cancer therapies. Now, the research team has designed and fabricated exceptional NK cell-engaging nanodrones, referred to as NKeNDs, using AaLS protein cage nanoparticles.

Schematic image of NK cell-engaging nanodrones (NKeNDs)
Schematic image of NK cell-engaging nanodrones (NKeNDs)

Image source: UNIST

These NKeNDs simultaneously display cancer-targeting ligands, such as HER2Afb or EGFRAfb, and NK cell-recruiting ligands, aCD16Nb, on the surface of the AaLS through the SpyCatcher/SpyTag protein ligation system. The dual ligand-displaying NKeNDs, named HER2 @NKeND and EGFR@NKeND, have demonstrated the ability to selectively bind to HER2-overexpressing SK-OV-3 cells and EGFR-overexpressing MDA-MB-468 cells, respectively, as well as human NK cells. 

The physical engagement of human NK cells with the target cancer cells mediated by the NKeNDs activates the NK cells, enabling them to effectively eliminate the target cancer cells in vitro. Remarkably, in SK-OV-3 tumor-bearing mice, the administration of HER2 @NKeNDs along with human PBMCs facilitates the infiltration of activated human NK cells into the tumor sites. As a result, tumor growth is significantly suppressed without causing noticeable side effects.

This research presents new possibilities for immune treatment through NK cell delivery nanodrones, overcoming challenges such as the movement and survival of NK cells

Kang Se-byung

This study showcases a novel approach to developing cancer-specific NK cell engagers by utilizing protein cage nanoparticles and recombinant cancer cell binders. It offers tremendous potential for the selective treatment of previously intractable types of cancers, the researchers report. Professor Kang Se-byung expressed his excitement about the study, stating, “This research presents new possibilities for immune treatment through NK cell delivery nanodrones, overcoming challenges such as the movement and survival of NK cells. We aim to provide new opportunities for customized treatments that selectively address various types of cancer through further research, including cancer-specific immune cell induction.” 

The study was conducted with the generous support of the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF), the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT), the University Key Research Institute (C5: Center for Cell to Cell Communication in the Cancer), and the SRC Cellular Responses to Metabolic Stress Research Center (CRMSRC). 


Source: Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology

02.01.2024

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