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Avoiding side effects of cancer drugs

Updated: Mar 7, 2022

Scientists from EARA member the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU), Israel, have found a way to prevent kidney damage during the use of life-saving drugs.

In collaboration with biotech company, Tissue Dynamics, they used a kidney-specific tissue-on-a-chip to mimic the human body environment and track the tissue’s response to drugs in real time.

Drugs used in chemotherapy to treat cancer - such as cyclosporin and cisplatin - can cause kidney toxicity, but are considered life-saving therapies.

Their findings, published in the Science Translational Medicine, revealed that cisplatin – an anti-cancer drug – caused the kidneys to pick up too much sugar.

Based on that, they added empagliflozin, a drug that blocked the sugar reabsorption, eliminating the damaging effect of this chemotherapy treatment.

“Our findings would allow patients to receive higher doses of the drug for longer durations of treatment, without the side effects associated with chemo," said Prof. Yaakov Nahmias, director of the Grass Center for Bioengineering at HU and leading author of the study (pictured below, right).

Professor Nahmias confirmed that the study involved three already approved drugs, and his team demonstrated that the diabetes drug empagliflozin could be used in a new way to reduce the side effects caused by a cancer therapy.

Although his team’s discovery of this new function to protect the kidney was possible using only organoid models, he has confirmed that the drugs used in the study could not have been approved today without the use of animal models.

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