Intercellular communication decrypting cancer treatment
Researchers from UTS and the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile (UC) are harnessing the power of intercellular communication to unlock new cancer treatments.
Professor Mary Bebawy from the UTS Laboratory of Cancer Cell Biology and Therapeutics and Professor Roberto Ebensperger from the UC Laboratory of Cellular Therapy and Regenerative Medicine are taking an in-depth look at the mechanics of extracellular vesicles (EVs), the particles released by cells that report on its condition.
By harvesting data from the EVs in diseased cells, the pair are developing new drug delivery methods that target specific cancers, providing a more personalised treatment for cancer patients.
“EVs are like tiny blebs or bubbles that originate from the surface of a cell. They carry with them proteins, lipids, and other cellular components; they’re important mediators of cell-to-cell communication,” says Prof Bebawy.
“[EVs allow us to] understand how the disease stands and how the disease has changed. With that knowledge, we can engineer new drugs that are specific to that form of disease.”
For cancer patients, the research promises more effective ways of treating the disease.
“The societal benefit will be access to more personalised, precise therapy – that will also be a more effective and less toxic form of treatment,” says Prof Ebensperger.
“In short, it offers an alternative treatment for patients where other treatments may fail.”
Their work is testament to the value of cross-disciplinary collaborative research. Prof Ebensperger’s pharmaceutical specialisation in stem cell-based therapies, combined with Prof Bebawy’s experience in EVs, makes for an enriched understanding of the practical applications of cancer research to treatment methodology, according to Prof Ebensperger.
“Mary is the most experienced researcher at UTS working with EVs, biology, and their application. I relished the chance to work with her so I could learn more about this topic and so we could have extra opportunities to complement each other’s areas of research,” says Prof Ebensperger.
Their collaboration is made possible by the UTS Key Technology Partnership program, which facilitates international research collaboration between UTS and its global network of partner institutions.
For Prof Bebawy, the benefit of her collaboration with Prof Ebensperger goes beyond joint research.
“The KTP program strengthens the international collaboration between UTS and UC, and the opportunities that come with that; student exchange, joint grant submissions, even for the sharing of knowledge and teaching,” says Prof Bebawy.