ISS Scientists Begin Tests On Cancer Treatment Drug

16 June 2017, 10:09 am EDT By Luan Chan Tech Times
ISS astronauts display how to construct a pizza in zero gravity

Scientists on board the International Space Station are now looking into the efficacy of an antiody drug that aims to activate the immune system to fight cancer.

According to the study's description, the new combination drug is targeting a higher rate of cancer cell death while reducing the harmful side effects of chemotherapy.

Aptly titled "The Efficacy and Metabolism of Azonafide Antibody-Drug Conjugates (ADCs) in Microgravity," ISS scientists will test the drug developed by Oncolinx in order to combat cancer, but the research's critical aspect is the fact that it will be carried out in microgravity.

What Is So Special About The Oncolinx ADC?

Chemotherapy usually requires a patent to either orally or intravenously take drugs that are strong enough to kill cancer cells. The strength of the drugs, however, also tend to kill healthy cells, causing the immune system to weaken.

What makes the Azonafide ADC a little better is its targeted approach towards fighting off cancer because it also has antibodies that protect healthy cells.

"On one side it will only bind to the drug and the other side, may only bind to cancer cells and not healthy cells. So by combining these two, the idea is to decrease the nasty side effects of chemotherapy," Bioserve Space Technologies research associate Luis Zea explained.

The researchers hope that by causing the reaction described above, the drug would trigger the human body's immunological memory to prevent cancer from reforming.

Before that, however, scientists need to know how exactly the ADCs work in the human body and they believe microgravity can help push this objective forward.

Why Test ADCs In Microgravity?

According to Zea, experimenting with the Oncolinx ADCs in microgravity would prove valuable because microgravity allows scientists to observe cancer cells in new angles, thereby reducing the chances of false results, whether positive or negative.

"In space, you can grow larger and larger cancer tumors spherical in shape, so you have a better model of what's happening in the human body," Zea explains.

The results of the study would allow scientists to understand how ADCs affect the human body and will pave the way for developing more effective cancer treatments on Earth. It will also contribute greatly to cancer drug development for patients on Earth and astronauts who could contract the disease in future deep space missions.

Co-investigator Dr. Dhaval Shah from the Center for Translational Medicine at the University at Buffalo pointed out that the drug could metabolize differently on Earth and in space, but the main target is to ensure that it will work wherever it is administered.

"In the long term, we need to be sure what drugs are going to work," Dr. Shal said.

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