Molecular delivery system developed at URI shows promise against bladder cancer

A research team from the University of Rhode Island and The Miriam Hospital in Providence has demonstrated a potential new weapon in the fight against bladder cancer.

The researchers showed that a cancer-seeking molecule called pHLIP used in combination with an FDA-approved fluorescent dye called ICG can successfully target tumors in human bladders, lighting up cancerous lesions to make them easier for surgeons to see and remove. In a separate experiment reported in the same study, the researchers showed that pHLIP peptides combined with a powerful toxin called amanitin could penetrate and kill bladder cancer cells in a petri dish.

The researchers say the findings could set the stage for a potential clinical trial to test the effectiveness of pHLIP-based treatments in patients with non-muscle invasive bladder cancer.

“Bladder cancer can be a devastating disease, and case rates are rising particularly here in Rhode Island,” said Yana Reshetnyak, a physics professor at URI and a study co-author. “Our results suggest that pHLIP peptides could potentially be used to aid in fluorescence-guided surgeries or in targeting therapeutics to bladder and perhaps other urinary tract cancers.”