Superblood, the power of red blood cells to help fight deadly cancers is the new weapon to combat cancer. This treatment is under current study by three companies that are using similar approaches.
The protocol requires researchers collect red blood cells from patients, modify them so anti-cancer or other medicines can be enclosed, then inject them back into patients. The goal is improve the medicines’ effectiveness while reducing harmful side effects.
Superblood: How It Works
The less-toxic superblood approach also allows the drugs to target tumors more directly, experts say. The drugs also stay in the body longer, so superblood may be more effective in the long term. Because the chemo is inside the red blood cell, there is less exposure. And this should translate to less toxicity
This new technology also builds on another treatment advance known as CAR T-cell therapy. CAR T-cell therapy draws on the power of the body’s T cells. T cells are known as the workhorses of the immune system, due to their ability to find and kill diseased cells.
In the CAR T process, blood is drawn from a patient, T cells are separated and genetically engineered to boost their tumor-fighting ability, then returned to the patient through an IV.
Compared to CAR T, superblood has more advantages, experts say. The treatment is easier to use, can be made more quickly, and is long lasting.
Superblood: Current Status
The pharmaceutical company, EryDel, an Italian company, is working on a superblood treatment, called EryDex. It is used to treat the rare genetic disease ataxia telangiectasia (AT). AT starts in childhood and causes neurological problems such as balance issues, defective motor skills, and respiratory infections.
Patients can lose the ability to write, talk, and walk normally. Many patients die in their 20s.EryDex loads a steroid drug into red blood cells, then gives it to patients through an IV once a month. More than 200 people have been given the treatment.
EryDex is a slow-release system, which prevents steroid side affects. These side affects include thinning of bones, high blood sugar, cataracts, and high blood pressure.Research results demonstrate that treatment can delay symptoms and the course of the disease. In one study, 18 patients given monthly infusions for 6 months had a better score on motor skills and many other aspects of daily living.
The company is conducting its final study before seeking FDA approval. Results of that study are expected by the second half of 2019.The treatment has been granted orphan drug status by the FDA. That means the drug is designed to treat rare diseases or is unlikely to ever be profitable to a drug manufacturer.
Besides ataxia telangiectasia, the company is looking at other diseases, including cancer, their system could treat.
Rubius Therapeutics in Cambridge, MA, is also studying superblood treatment for rare diseases, cancers, and immune system disorders. It has raised more than $220 million in financing for research.
The superblood concept is interesting. Further testing is necessary to fully determine its effectiveness. So far the results have been encouraging.