CKAP5 and the RNA-Based Nanodrug for Ovarian Cancer Treatment

In 2020, ovarian cancer caused over 200,000 deaths worldwide. The most common treatments for ovarian cancer are surgery and chemotherapy. Chemotherapy drugs work by targeting proteins that cancer cells need to survive.1-3

But some people with ovarian cancer develop a resistance to chemotherapy. This happens when the chemotherapy cannot stop the cancer cells from growing. As a result, researchers are trying to find other types of drugs that can be used to treat ovarian cancer.2,3

Designing drugs to kill cancer cells

Our cells contain many proteins with different jobs. The idea behind chemotherapy is to find a key protein that cancer cells need and remove it from the cells. When one of these proteins is removed, cancer cells are destroyed.1,3

Finding these key proteins is an ongoing area of research. Once researchers find an ideal protein, they then design drugs to remove that protein from all cells.1,3

What is CKAP5?

One key protein is called the cytoskeleton-associated protein 5 (CKAP5), which plays an important role in cell division. Cell division is the process by which a single cell grows and splits into two cells. CKAP5 is present in different types of cells. It works with other proteins to make sure that cell division occurs correctly. If a cell does not have CKAP5, that cell cannot divide and is likely to die.3,4

Cancer cells have certain changes, or abnormalities. These abnormalities make cancer cells more likely than healthy cells to be affected by removing CKAP5. A 2023 study found that removing CKAP5 can be an effective way to fight ovarian cancer. This treatment also works on other cancer cells that are resistant to chemotherapy.3,4

How RNA-based nanodrugs can be used to treat ovarian cancer

RNA-based nanodrugs can be used to remove a protein from a cell. Here is how they work.

Each cell in your body contains information in the form of DNA that it can use to create proteins. First, DNA gets converted into RNA. RNA takes the information from the DNA and tells your body what to do with it. There are several types of RNA that play different roles.1,3

One type of RNA, called small interfering RNA (siRNA), can be added into cells to turn off (silence) a specific gene. This is how the RNA-based nanodrug for ovarian cancer works.3

An siRNA is specifically designed for the CKPA5 gene. When this siRNA is added into the cells, it silences the CKAP5 gene. Without the CKAP5 protein, the cells will have trouble multiplying and likely die. Since the absence of this protein is worse for cancer cells than for healthy cells, it can be an effective cancer treatment.3

Similarities with the RNA-based COVID-19 vaccines

You may have heard of mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines. There are some similarities between these vaccines and the RNA-based nanodrug to treat ovarian cancer. Both use a certain type of RNA that enters the cells in your body.3,5

The COVID-19 vaccine contains messenger RNA (mRNA) that gives cells instructions to create a certain protein. This protein is a specific part of the COVID-19 virus. By introducing this foreign protein into your body, your immune system can learn how to fight the infection.5

The RNA-based nanodrug to treat ovarian cancer uses siRNA. This specific RNA interacts with the genes in the cells and stops them from making the CKAP5 protein. The cancer cells that do not have this protein cannot multiply. But healthy cells can still multiply even without the CKAP5 protein.3

RNA-based nanodrug treatment has also been used to target other types of cancer cells. While it had different success rates for different types of cancers, it was very successful at destroying ovarian cancer cells. It has also been tested on animals in a lab and showed promising results.3,4

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