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Vivian Xie
14 Sep 2022

mRNA therapy for ovarian cancer and muscle wasting

Researchers demonstrate results of a promising mRNA therapy for ovarian cancer and muscle wasting caused by cachexia, a condition associated with various types of cancers and chronic diseases.

Oregon State University and Oregon Health & Science University researchers have come together to develop a first-of-its-kind mRNA therapy for ovarian cancer and a muscle-wasting condition associated with cancer known as cachexia. 

The mRNA treatment is based on similar principles utilised in the SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccines developed by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech. The mRNA in the therapeutic carries specific instructions to cells regarding the manufacturing of proteins. The mRNA are delivered via lipid nanoparticles (LNPs), triggering the production of follistatin protein in cancer clusters. Administered via injection into the peritoneal cavity containing the abdominal organs, the follastatin produced will work against the protein activin A. Activin A has previously been linked to aggressive ovarian cancer and associated cachexia. 

OSU College of Pharmacy professor Oleh Taratula commented: “By changing the characteristics of the cancer cells, mRNA treatment can lead to a range of positive effects... It prevents the build-up of ascites – abdominal fluid containing cancer cells. It also delays disease progression and induces the formation of small, solid tumours that don’t adhere to organs and thus can be more easily removed, and it combats cachexia by helping to preserve muscle mass.” 

Ovarian cancer currently boasts a 5-year survival rate of 30%, making it one of the more deadly forms of cancer. Cachexia associated with ovarian cancer may also present itself with stomach, lung, and pancreatic cancer, as well as other chronic illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, renal failure, cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and AIDS. The syndrome kills as many as 30% of cancer patients it afflicts. Combined with malnutrition, cachexia may also inflict a state of nutritional bankruptcy and chronic wasting on patients. 

The study demonstrated that the mRNA therapy worked in combination with cisplatin, the current gold standard of chemotherapy treatment for ovarian cancer. Mouse models receiving both therapies lived longer and presented with less muscle atrophy than those receiving just one of the two therapies. Daniel Marks of OHSU stated: “Chemotherapy remains the frontline treatment for metastatic disease but it comes at a high cost – loss of muscle mass, depletion of fat stores, fatigue, and systemic inflammation... There is a clear need to find new therapies and drug combinations that improve the efficacy and tolerabilitiy of chemotherapy and we think we’ve taken a big step in that direction.” 

Source: Oregon State researchers develop messenger RNA therapy for ovarian cancer, muscle wasting | Oregon State University  

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