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SHARJAH: A team of researchers at the American University of Sharjah (AUS) has obtained a US patent for systems and methods for targeted breast cancer therapies.

The Ultrasound in Cancer Research Group has been working on a chemotherapy platform that uses minute capsules to target cancerous cells while bypassing healthy cells, thus reducing the treatment’s adverse effects.

The team applied for the patent in 2017 and received their notice of allowance in August 2020. The patent was issued on December 15 this year.

Such innovation can help cancer patients avoid some of the harsh, and sometimes debilitating side effects that result from current treatments.

“The patent describes a chemotherapy platform that uses Herceptin-targeted nanocarriers that encapsulate several anti-neoplastic (anti-cancer) agents. Once the nano-vehicles reach and bind to the breast cancer tissues, the drug is released using ultrasound waves. This will ensure the delivery of high concentrations of the therapeutic to the diseased tissues while avoiding its interaction with healthy cells in the body, thus reducing the side effects of conventional chemotherapy,” said Dr Ghaleb Husseini, professor of Chemical Engineering at AUS, Dana Gas Endowed Chair for Chemical Engineering, and founder of the Ultrasound in Cancer Research Group at AUS.

In this new method, the nanocarriers target the protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), which promotes the growth of cancer cells. Once the nanocarriers are bound to the malignant cells, ultrasound is used to release the chemotherapy drug at the targeted site. Dr Husseini explained that using ultrasound is ideal because it is simple to use and it is widely understood.

Also working on related research is the AUS Drug Delivery Group. This team of researchers has applied for a US patent for its innovation that uses estrone-liposomes to deliver chemotherapy drugs in the treatment of breast cancer.

AUS graduate and undergraduate students majoring in chemical, biomedical and electrical engineering have been able to gain hands-on research experience as part of these research teams.