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Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Cerium oxide nanoparticles for liver cancer treatment

The ICN2 and the IDIBAPS will lead a project, cofounded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF – FEDER), to develop a drug based on cerium oxide nanoparticles for liver cancer treatment.

PromeCean, a new project aiming to apply nanoparticles to the treatment of liver cancer has been launched by the ICN2 and the Institut d’Investigacions Biomèdiques Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS) of Barcelona in May 2019. Cofounded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) in the framework of the FEDER Operative Programme of Catalonia 2014-2020, this research will focus on developing and testing a pharmaceutical product based on cerium oxide nanoparticles to treat hepatocellular carcinoma. The project will be led by Dr Neus Gómez Bastus and Prof. Victor Puntes, of the ICN2 Inorganic Nanoparticles Group, and Dr Guillermo Fernández-Varo and Prof. Wladimiro Jimenez, of the CIBERehd/IDIBAPS  and  the Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics Service of the Hospital Cliníc, and will take to the next stage the study previously performed by the two institutions that led to the registration of a patent.

Cerium oxide nanoparticles (CeO2 NPs) have recently raised as smart antioxidant agents, which act on inflammations scavenging excess of free radicals while staying inactive and slowly dissolve in healthy conditions. This property is extremely interesting since it is known that tumors succeed to elude the immune system, which normally eliminate faulty cells, thanks to inflammation. Preliminary results in animals show that nanoparticles accumulate in the liver and are able to decrease the inflammation, with a consequent reduction of the tumoral cells proliferation. Therefore, they are good candidates for immunotherapy applications.

These particles could be used in particular for the treatment of the hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), which is the most common type of liver cancer and whose incidence is increasing given the current obesity epidemics. The treatments that are currently recommended, including surgical resection, liver transplantation and local ablation, are not sufficiently effective. Developing a therapy based on a different approach is thus especially urgent.

This project will progress along two lines: on the one hand, the development of the product for pharmaceutical purposes and, on the other, its biological tests in view of an application to the clinical environment. At present, the cerium oxide nanoparticles have been synthetized in laboratory quantities. Their application to the medical field, though, requires the product to be scalable up to industrial production, storable, stable and transportable. These aspects of the project will be addressed by researchers at the ICN2.

The efficacy of cerium oxide nanoparticles as agents for immunotherapy against liver cancer has also to be proven through in vivo studies in animal models (specifically, in rats). In addition, it is interesting to compare its effects with those already registered of sorafenib or regorafenib, drugs that can selectively inhibit certain proteins, resulting in a slower progression of the tumor. The nanoparticles under investigation are expected to produce a better outcome. Ex-vivo experiments in discarded transplantation livers will also be carried out, when possible, to observe effects in human prior clinical trials. This branch of the investigation will be carried out at the Hospital Clinic/IDIBAPS.

In the context of an increasing incidence of cancer due to population aging, nanotechnology can provide new tools for a different-approach medicine and tailored treatment of tumors.


The PromeCean project has been co-financed by the European Union through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF-FEDER).