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Success Story

QNRF Funded Researchers Develop Novel Drug Delivery Systems for the Treatment of Breast Cancer

According to the most recent statistics, breast cancer has surpassed lung cancer as the most common form of cancer worldwide as observed on the occasion of World Cancer Day, marked every year on the 4th of February. Breast cancer accounts for the largest number of cancer cases in the GCC and Qatar as well. This calls for a renewed urgency to respond to the rising rates of breast cancer and initiate impactful programs on global and country levels to raise awareness about this disease, help people at risk with timely detection, ensure access to suitable healthcare, and innovate treatments and medicines that are more effective.

Responding to this, a team of researchers from Qatar University has teamed up with researchers from Anglia Ruskin University in the United Kingdom to improve the treatment methods for breast cancer. The team observed that a prime problem in many anticancer drugs is their poor solubility in water and weak ability to penetrate cancer tissues, leading to inefficient treatment and several adverse effects on healthy tissues, which may deteriorate the health of breast cancer patients. As a result, if the affected tissue is not removed at an early stage, cancer may spread to other tissues, and eventually, lead to death.

To propose an effective solution, the research team, led by Dr. Abdelbary Elhissi from Qatar University, applied for and successfully received a research grant from QNRF under its National Priorities Research Program for the project titled, “Surfactant-Based Delivery Systems for The Treatment of Breast Cancer” (NPRP9-337-3-069).

In their research project, the team set on the mission to design and develop effective drug delivery systems that can enhance solubility and improve the selectivity of the drug against cancer, which would lead to saving the lives of thousands of women, and avoid the deleterious psychological effects resulting from breast removal.

To do this, they designed nanoparticles by using natural fatty materials extracted from soya beans or alternative safe synthetic materials with the inclusion of cholesterol. After months of hard work, the team developed nano-sized drug delivery vehicles that can act as anticancer drug carriers. These nanoparticles showed success in being able to solubilize anticancer drugs and enhance toxicity against cancer cells using relatively small drug doses.

In addition to developing an effective drug delivery system, this project has also produced three peer-reviewed research papers, a review paper, and a book chapter. The project outcomes have been widely disseminated at international research conferences such as the Annual Symposium of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS), the largest association of its kind joined by thousands of pharmaceutical scientists worldwide.

Moreover, capacity building is a prime achievement of this project as young researchers from Qatar and the United Kingdom joined the principal investigators in conducting the research. Furthermore, the research team at Qatar University led by Dr. Elhissi has successfully managed to secure additional funds to adapt their nanotechnology concepts for the treatment of COVID-19 which promises a far-reaching impact. The novel delivery drug system is an innovative outcome of a QNRF-funded project which will greatly help strengthen the fight against breast cancer in Qatar and globally, and holds the potential for wider application to improve treatment methods for other diseases as well.

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