Nanotechnology for Regulating Ovarian Cancer Metastasis

Chinese & English Text | Debby Seng

Photo | Editorial Board with some provided by the interviewee

Leo Lee Tsz On, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences, has discovered close links between the growth and metastasis of ovarian cancer cells and a hormone known as angiotensin II. His team is now exploring the use of nanotechnology to suppress ovarian cancer metastasis, suggesting anew direction for therapy.

Some ovarian cancer cells detach from the ovary. After that, they reproduce and form drug‑resistant multicellular spheroids, which then spread and implant to other organs. According to Prof Lee, the formation of these spheroids is closely related to angiotensin II. This hormone normally regulates blood pressure in the blood vessels and is not commonly observed in the ovary. However, he found that ovarian cancer cells are able to produce angiotensin II. ‘Through the sterol regulatory element‑binding protein pathway, receptors of angiotensin II increase the production of unsaturated fatty acids, which help reduce cellular necrosis and promote cancer cells’ metastasis,’ says Prof Lee.

The molecular mechanism by which angiotensin II and its receptors enhance the formation, growth, and metastasis of multicellular spheroids of ovarian cancer

In light of this discovery, his team created a type of small interfering RNA (siRNA) to block the operation of the receptors of angiotensin II, in order to reduce ovarian cancer cells. However, this siRNA, likely to be broken down in blood, cannot penetrate the membranes of cancer cells. Prof Lee’s team is working to develop a technique to wrap siRNA with a type of nanomaterial known as ‘dendrimer’. This material could help to deliver the siRNA to the tumour and enables the siRNA to enter the ovarian cancer cell and to suppress the receptors of angiotensin II. Meanwhile, his team has started animal testing, which is an important step towards more effective ovarian cancer treatment.

Prof Leo Lee Tsz On focuses on the role of GPCR signalling in the female reproductive system, as well as its impact on the development and spread of ovarian cancer. He has published 45 papers in SCI‑indexed journals.

ISSUE 22 | 2020

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