Toshiba has co-developed a ‘tumour-tropic liposome technology’ for gene therapy with a team led by professor Yozo Nakazawa at the Department of Pediatrics, Shinshu University.

Using nano-sized biodegradable liposomes developed by Toshiba, the technology transfers therapeutic genes to targeted cancer cells. It is said to achieve safer gene delivery than viruses used as carriers.

The liposomes are primarily made of a unique lipid that degrades in cells. To ensure delivery to the targeted cancer cell, the liposome structures are designed according to the properties of the target.

The tumour-tropic liposome technology supplies the therapeutic gene to T-cell leukaemia cells and achieves a 30-fold increase in uptake and 400-fold increase in gene expression compared to normal T-cells.

The technology is said to have the potential to develop new treatments for other cancers.

In cancer therapy, therapeutic genes are inserted into target cells to repair and improve cell functions.

The therapeutic genes require a carrier to deliver them into a cell and the existing approaches use viruses as the carriers. However, this practice is considered prone to the risk of infection and cell tropism.

Shinshu University and Toshiba are currently collaborating in research to use biodegradable liposomes as non-virus carriers of therapeutic genes.

By experimentally administering tumour-tropic liposomes carrying therapeutic genes into T-cell tumour bearing mice, Shinshu University demonstrated that the biodegradable liposome is an effective carrier for delivering therapeutic genes into tumour cells.

The university also intends to develop an effective treatment for relapsed or refractory T-cell tumours.

Toshiba noted that it will continue the collaboration with Shinshu University to further improve the delivery and application of cancer-directed liposomes and to promote the use of gene therapy for cancer treatments.