New mRNA therapy shows promise for ovarian cancer, cachexia: mouse model

By The Science Advisory Board staff writers

September 14, 2022 -- Researchers have developed what they contend is a first-of-its-kind messenger RNA (mRNA) therapy for combating ovarian cancer and cachexia, an associated muscle-wasting condition, with promising results from a study of mice.

Their research, part of a $2.3 million National Institutes of Health grant awarded to researchers at Oregon State University and Oregon Health and Science University, was published September 13 in the journal Small.

The novel treatment is based on the same principles used in SARS-CoV-2 vaccines and leverages lipid nanoparticles, delivering mRNA that triggers the production of the follistatin protein within cancer clusters. Following intraperitoneal administration, the follistatin produced works against another protein, activin A, whose elevated numbers are linked with aggressive ovarian cancer and its associated cachexia.

In a mouse model, the mRNA therapy worked well in combination with cisplatin, the current standard of care chemotherapy treatment for ovarian cancer. Mice receiving both therapies lived longer than those receiving just one and had less muscle atrophy.

"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," Dr. Daniel Marks, PhD, senior associate dean for research at Oregon Health and Science University, said in a statement. "There is a clear need to find new therapies and drug combinations that improve the efficacy and tolerability of chemotherapy, and we think we've taken a big step in that direction."

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