Turkish scientist honored for cancer-treatment development
WASHINGTON - Hürriyet Daily News
Hürriyet photoTurkish scientist İnanç Ortaç won a novel top prize in the United States for his invention of nano-wiffle balls, called that due to their physical resemblance to wiffle-balls, for cancer therapy.
A graduate student at the University of California, Ortaç invented nano-wiffle-balls, a drug delivery system that involves making a silicon wiffle-ball structure a millionth the size of a wiffle ball and sealing an enzyme inside for cancer therapy.
“We encapsulate otherwise immunogenic enzymes within nano capsules that we call nano-wiffle balls,” Ortaç said.
“Once encapsulated, enzymes mostly from bacterial origin are hidden from the immune system and able to reach and accumulate only at the cancer site. Later, we systemically administer prodrug, which is the inactive and nontoxic form of the drug. Prodrugs reach most parts of the body, but they don’t generate side effects because they are not toxic. They get activated through a highly specific enzymatic reaction with the enzymes encapsulated in nano-wiffle balls only at the cancer site.”
Ortaç said he came up with this idea while seeking a generalized solution to cancer therapy. “Cancer takes more than 1,500 people a day only in the U.S. I’m hoping some day this technology can be applied to save the lives of people around the world.”
Currently, the main problem in chemotherapy for cancer treatment is the specificity. In fact, the drugs used in chemotherapy are quite effective.
“The issue is they are as effective against healthy cells. With this technology, we utilize what we call nano-wiffle balls in order to specifically kill cancer cells without affecting healthy cells. Therefore, the lethal side effects can be eliminated, the efficacy of the therapy can be increased and the quality of life of patients can be improved. This technology can potentially be applied to 90 percent of cancer including solid tumors, blood cancers and metastatic cancer,” he added.
Ortaç said he met John Holdren, a senior adviser to President Obama on science and technology issues and Todd Park, U.S. chief technology officer after the awards ceremony.
“John Holdren congratulated me on addressing such an important issue and said decreasing the side effects of chemotherapy and improving the quality of life of cancer patients is among top priorities of Obama’s policy on medical research,” he said.
“Currently, we are doing preclinical studies on various types of cancers including colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukemia and metastatic breast cancer. We are planning to start clinical studies in the following few years.”