May. 14, 2018

BGN Technologies, the technology transfer company of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), and The National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev (NIBN) have announced that a research group led by Prof. Varda Shoshan-Barmatz (pictured above) of the Department of Life Sciences and the NIBN, is developing a novel molecule for the treatment of cancer, which has shown not only inhibition of growth of cancer cells, but also the ability to reprogram the cancer cells back to normal-like cells. The novel treatment is based on preventing the expression of VDAC1, a protein that is highly overexpressed in many solid and non-solid tumors. 


VDAC1 serves as the gate-keeper of the mitochondria, organelles that control cell metabolism, and is therefore crucial for supplying the high energy demands that characterize malignant cells. Studies by Prof. Shoshan-Barmatz show that silencing VDAC1 expression using the siRNA method, leads to inhibition of cancer cell growth, both in vitro and in mouse models of glioblastoma , lung cancer, and triple negative breast cancer. Importantly, treatment of cancer cells with VDAC1 specific siRNA induces metabolic rewiring of the cancer cells, reversing their oncogenic properties and diverting them towards normal-like differentiated cells.

“Although still in early stages, we are excited with our results that demonstrate the potential of this novel molecule for cancer treatment," said Prof. Shoshan-Barmatz. “Several of our findings are particularly noteworthy. First, VDAC1, which is overexpressed in most cancer cells compared to healthy cells, offers a potentially wide applicability for this treatment. Second, treatment with siRNA against VDAC1 inhibited growth of cancer cell but not of noncancerous cell, pointing to a potentially safe treatment. And most significantly, siRNA treatment of several cancer types in mouse models resulted in reprogrammed cancer cell metabolisms, leading to reduced tumor growth, induced disappearance of cancer stem cells and prompted cell differentiation. Thus, we discovered a code for reprogramming cancer cells so that they lose their oncogenic features."

Dr. Ora Horovitz, Senior Vice President of Business Development at BGN Technologies commented, “We are now seeking partners for the further development and advancement of this promising patented treatment towards the clinic in the hope that it will lead to a novel path for cancer treatment."