The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, atop a Falcon 9 booster rocket, is connected to the crew access arm and launch tower on Pad39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, May 29, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Steve Nesius.
CTech – A SpaceX Falcon 9 launcher destined for the International Space Station was launched last week with a smart laboratory developed by Israeli company SpacePharma, carrying, among other experiments, a nanotechnology cancer treatment developed by Ayana Pharma from Jerusalem. Doxil is the first nanotechnology drug to receive FDA approval. The purpose of the experiment is to test for the first time whether there is a change in the drug itself or in its action against cancer cells under zero-gravity conditions.
Doxil is a complex-structured liposome drug that has been developed to treat ovarian cancer, multiple myeloma (bone marrow cancer), and other contraindications. The complex and unique structure of the drug makes it possible to test whether conditions of non-gravity, as they exist in space, affect the physical properties of the drug and its activity against cancer cells. Since the physical and chemical properties of the drug and the cancer cell may vary under gravitational conditions, the researchers will seek to examine whether nanoparticle uptake into cancer cells will change, whether the active substance against cancer cells and its rate of release will change, whether the unique envelope properties of the drug will change and more.
These aspects may indicate a future possibility for improving the effectiveness of cancer treatment in conditions of non-gravity.
Doxil drug development was led by Prof. Yehezkel Bernholtz of the Hebrew University, who founded Ayana Pharma in 2012 in Jerusalem and is recognized as a global expert in the development of nanotechnology drugs. The company’s main investors include the Education fund for teachers and kindergarten teachers in Israel, the Integra Holdings Fund, the Ilan Holdings Fund, and Dr. Shmuel Kabili.
The laboratory, developed by SpacePharma, weighs only about four kilograms, which allows for remote-controlled, real-time space testing.