In statements made today to the Lusa agency, Flávia Castro, a researcher at the Institute of the University of Porto, explained that the study, published in the scientific journal Biomaterials, was based on nanoparticles of two biomaterials, chitosan (extracted from crustaceans) and polyglutamic acid (extracted from the fermentation of bacteria).
“We found that these nanoparticles were, by themselves, capable of altering the profile of immune cells and activating them through different pathways”, he explained.
Based on this principle, the researchers wanted to understand, in collaboration with experts from the Laboratory of Experimental Cancer Research, in Belgium, if the nanoparticles “could enhance other existing therapies”, such as radiotherapy.
In the laboratory, the researchers treated three different forms of breast cancer in animal models (mice): inducing only nanoparticles, inducing only radiation therapy and combining the two treatments.
“Combining the two treatments, we found that we were able to reprogram immune cells, decreasing the immunosuppressive response and increasing the antitumor response, that is, we were able to model these cells that were promoting the tumor in the opposite direction, starting to fight the tumor”, clarified.
The combination of the two treatments thus resulted in a “decrease in tumor growth” and inhibition of tumor metastasis, giving researchers “clues” of what may be done to “potentiate” the current response to radiotherapy.
“Radiotherapy, by itself, has excellent results, but the truth is that it ingests damage many times in the patient, especially in the response of tissue repair. Our therapy can help with this, because the tissue repair response will, in a way, lower the response to the tumor, that is, add an extra therapy that will model these cells and could bring great benefits to patients ”, explained Flávia Castro.
At the moment, the researchers are trying to “potentiate even more” the method, trying to encapsulate other immunomodulating agents within the particles, namely, chemotherapeutic agents.
Within the scope of this work, Flávia Castro received the distinction of ‘Best Poster Award’ from the Portuguese League Against Cancer, presented during the web conference Cancer Biology: from Basic to Translational Research.