Aptamers for Tumor Initiating Cells


Jeremy Rich, MD
Youngmi Kim
Anita Hjelmeland, PhD


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Jason Ospina, PhD

What is it? What does it do?

Aptamers are oligonucleotide or peptide molecules that bind to a specific target molecule.  Dr. Rich and his team have developed aptamers consisting of a single stranded nucleic acids having 100 nucleotides or less that specifically binds to tumor initiating cancer cells, identified by screening a large pool of randomly generated aptamers to obtain a discrete set of them that specifically bind to tumor initiating cancer cells, such as those found in brain cancer or glioblastoma. The aptamers can also be linked or complexed with anticancer agents or imaging agents for use in therapy or diagnosis to increase the efficacy of exiting therapeutics.

Why is it better?

  • Current methods and markers used to enrich or deplete for tumor initiating cells have prevented the prospective separation of tumorigenic and non-tumorigenic cells that define a cellular hierarchy
  • They have also been limited by a shared antigen with normal neural progenitors
  • A large screen to identify novel TIC enrichment reagents in glioblastomas has not previously been developed
  • The developed aptamers are able to identify GBM TIC-specific nucleic acid probes that specifically bind TICs, with a positive selection for TICs and negative selection for non-TICs
  • They can also be modified to deliver payloads to selectively target or image TICs.

What is its current status?

Dr. Rich and his team are currently investigating the expression levels and possible functional contributions of the genetic targets identified in the gene expression studies through comparison of TICs and non-TICs in different glioblastoma subgroups. In addition, preliminary studies suggest that the identified aptamers interacting with TICs can be bound to nanoparticles to act as delivery vehicles into the brain.

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