Nitric oxide could form treatment approach for breast cancer

A new therapeutic approach for triple negative breast cancer using nitric oxide is being explored by researchers at the medical research centre CÚRAM.

Amir Abdo Alsharabasy, a CÚRAM doctoral candidate working in the laboratory of Professor Abhay Pandit, is working on the design of nitric oxide scavengers to form a new treatment approach for this aggressive form of breast cancer.

Triple-negative breast cancer is invasive breast cancer that does not respond to hormonal therapy medicines or the current medicines that target the HER2 protein. It is usually more aggressive, harder to treat, and more likely to recur than cancers that are hormone receptor-positive or HER2-positive.

Speaking about the investigation into nitric oxide, Amir Abdo Alsharabasy said: “Nitric oxide is one of the prominent free radicals produced by the tumour tissue. “It, at certain concentrations, plays a significant role in breast cancer progression by inducing the cancer cells to spread to other parts of the body Our goal is to develop injectable hydrogel formulations, which can reduce the levels of, or ‘scavenge’ the nitric oxide, while enhancing the generation of carbon monoxide, so that we can potentially design a new treatment approach for triple negative breast cancer.”

The team is investigating how nitric oxide that surround, support, and give structure to tumour cells and tissues in the body. Hyaluronic acid (HA) is one of the main components of this network and is the material of choice for fabricating these hydrogels.

“HA plays multiple roles in tumour tissues” says Amir. “However, its interactions with nitric oxide have not been thoroughly investigated. The study, recently published in Biomacromolecules, attempts to understand the mechanism of these interactions and the different effects on nitric oxide levels and migration of breast cancer cells.”

It investigated the ability of HA to scavenge nitric oxide. The team found that the conversion of nitric oxide to certain nitrogen centred free radicals causes the HA to break down, which further inhibits the nitric oxide induced migration of cancer cells in the tumour environment.

Collectively, these results help toward understanding the involvement of HA in nitric oxide induced cell migration and suggests the potential use of modified HA, as a key material in different biomedical applications.

Commenting on the study, Professor Abhay Pandit, said: “While the recent progress in research about the roles of nitric oxide with tumour progression resulted ultimately in a number of ongoing clinical trials for evaluating the effects of NO-synthase inhibitors, we are focusing on NO itself trying to avoid the side effects/reactions of these inhibitors.”

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