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Tel Aviv University scientists report breakthrough with drug to treat ovarian cancer 

In animal trials, the drug achieved an 80% survival rate

Tel Aviv University scientists have developed a drug that has shown significant potential to treat ovarian cancer, achieving an 80% survival rate in animal trials.

The American Cancer Society lists ovarian cancer as the fifth-most-common cancer death in women. About 314,000 women worldwide were diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2020. 

Ovarian cancer cells are highly resistant to chemotherapy and immunotherapy, according to Dan Peer, the head of the university’s Laboratory of Precision Nanomedicine, where the research was conducted.

But the lab’s scientists figured out how to kill ovarian cancer cells by targeting them with tiny particles containing RNA that acted on the protein responsible for the cell’s stability. The drug caused the cells to collapse, effectively destroying them.

“Targeting cell division is not new,” he said in a university news release, “but using RNA to target proteins that make up the cell’s skeleton — this is a new approach and a new target that must be further investigated.”

The study was published in the journal Science Advances in April. 

The university did not elaborate on next steps for study of the drug. It can take years before a drug that proves successful in a lab is approved for patients and brought to market. 

The developing treatment is an example of an RNA-based nanodrug, which uses extremely small particles used to deliver RNA therapy. Prior studies have examined their use for lymphoma and other cancers including lung, colorectal and renal. 

Ovarian cancer occurs when cells near or inside the ovaries develop mutations in their DNA, which cause them to grow and multiply very quickly, creating a tumor. 

Most ovarian cancer cases develop after menopause and those most susceptible are women with a personal or family history of ovarian or breast cancer, and those who had children later in life, never had a pregnancy, or are obese, smokers or undergoing hormone replacement therapy.

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