Cancer is one of the most prominent causes for morbidity and mortality in industrialized countries. The key challenge in drug-based anti-cancer therapy is to efficiently kill the cancer cells while minimizing side-effects on healthy parts of the body. The DeShield project will establish the proof of concept for a novel approach to upgrade existing anti-cancer drugs in a way that the anti-cancer effect will be increased while side-effects will simultaneously minimized. DeShield technology will be used to shield approved anti-cancer drugs while circulating in the body in order to minimize side effects. Once the shielded drug accumulated at the cancer site, an external stimulus will be applied to trigger de-shielding. The drug will then locally and specifically be taken up by the cancer cells to exert its therapeutic effect. We have successfully demonstrated the functionality of the DeShield technology using the clinically approved anti-cancer drug Doxil and human cancer cell lines: when the shield is intact, the drug is not taken up by the cells, only upon inducible un-shielding the drug enters and kills the cells. In the DeShield project we aim at establishing the Proof-of-Concept that this approach is functional in cancer animal models, that it increases the therapeutic effect while minimizing side-effects. To this aim we have assembled a team with high expertise in complementary areas covering the technology itself, the conductance of preclinical animal studies up to clinical trials as well as business expertise. The technical advance obtained in this project together with a comprehensive market research and the development of a business strategy will shape a highly attractive commercial proposition for the successful valorization of our ERC-funded research.
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