Israeli scientist creates ‘nanoghosts’ to combat cancer

Using nanoghosts to fight cancer is considered one of Israel’s most potentially impactful discoveries.

By World Israel News Staff

Israeli professor and researcher Marcelle Machluf, 56, hopes to revolutionize cancer treatment. For the past twelve years, she has worked to develop a targeted drug delivery system to combat cancer, called “nanoghosts.”

The nanoghost system offers the possibility of acting as a universal carrier for targeted drugs, making it a breakthrough in the fight against cancer. It uses adult stem cells to transport medicine directly to cancerous tumors.

They are able to “identify the tumor, hook to the tumor and deploy their drug into the tumor cells, and the tumor cannot do anything about it,” Machluf told The Times of Israel. “[I]t can target multiple cancers at different stages with diverse drugs, which it can release solely into the tumors without affecting surrounding tissue.”

Current cancer treatments involve radiotherapy and chemotherapy. These drugs, usually given intravenously, are unable to target only cancer cells, causing damage to healthy tissue as well.

Though targeted drug delivery against cancer has become a major research focus, existing systems only work for a limited amount of cancers.

The nanoghost system has already succeeded in treating pancreatic, lung, breast, prostate and brain cell cancers in mice.

Machluf originally came up with the idea for nanoghosts in 2007 when seeking ways to gain control over the HIV virus.

“My students and I took cells that express markers that the virus usually sticks to,” Machluf explained, according to The Jerusalem Post.

“We were told that the cells will wake up the immune system. So we started with stem cells. I suggested in 2009 that we try to do it with cancer. It was a crazy idea, but we got our first results in 2012… The patent was approved in the U.S. and Europe in July and soon it will be approved in China and India.”

She is now seeking funding to extend her research. “Now I am setting up a company to prepare it in industrial clinical quantities to start tests on humans,” she told The Times of Israel.

[W]e hope our discovery will be the answer to replace many cancer drugs. It’s hard for cancer drugs to get inside tumors, so they usually don’t cure. But with our technology, they will be more accessible,” Machluf  told the Post.

Machluf, the daughter of Moroccan immigrants who could not read or write, is the dean of the Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. She is world-renowned in her field.