Cancer remains one of the most lethal diseases despite advances in treatment and diagnostics. In 2020, the estimated number of new cases was over 19 million, roughly equal to Kazakhstan's population1.
While conventional onco-therapies like surgery, tumor resection, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy have proven ineffective in treating and alleviating many symptoms, they remain ineffective for nearly half of cancer cases2. Chemotherapy, in particular, poses significant challenges. These drugs target all rapidly dividing cells in the human body, leading to non-specific toxicity towards healthy cells and causing many side effects. Most importantly, chemotherapy weakens the immune system. Additionally, cancer cells show resistance to chemotherapy drugs throughout treatment.
In light of these limitations, the modern world is in acute demand of alternative cancer treatments to target tumors and cancerous tissues, more specifically with higher efficiency and, ideally, bring no harm to a patient's immune system. One of the main ways for a novel cancer treatment approach is to induce apoptosis in malignant cells to prevent their growth and proliferation3.
Cellcare is a bacteriotherapy-based antitumor therapeutic vaccine delivered in situ to solid carcinomas by a thermosensitive hydrogel. We engineered E.coli to produce bacteriocin Colicin E1 native to bacteria and known to form pores on the surface of multiple malignant cells. This pore-forming protein expressed in response to high lactate presence in the tumor microenvironment triggers apoptosis in the cancerous cells, leading to the overall tumor recession.
For the sake of safety and prevention of harsh immune response upon injection of bacterial vectors, we decided to encapsulate them in the thermosensitive chitosan-based hydrogel, which is biocompatible and safe. Upon the degradation of the gel, a patient will constantly receive a controlled dosage of the antitumor drug directly to the tumor site.
Our system proved safe, specific, and efficient, standing out as a potential therapeutic drug that can be used individually or in combination with other treatments.
Before proceeding with the project development, we approached multiple specialists, experts, pharmaceutical companies, doctors, and many others to discuss our idea and ensure its relevance, safety, and usability.
The human-centered approach of our project design is one of the main priorities and values of CellCare - we implement it by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and availability of the tumor therapeutic vaccine.
We view CellCare as a product that addresses global importance and local needs, paving the way for developing a new generation of bacterial therapies through synthetic biology and impacting many lives
How we did it?
In our team, we care about every member and ensure that we all feel inspired, valued, and included. We learned the i to the power of 4 principles4 and tried implementing it into our working culture. The power of 4 represents integrity, inclusion, innovation, and impact.
We continue to promote science and raise awareness about educational problems in our local community. Through our academic and charity events, we provided and translated knowledge about cancer, its precautions, and the power of science in general.
A practical approach to offering opportunities for science education