Research Foundation News

April 7, 2020

Cancer scientists at Purdue aim to use protein power to stop tumor growth, repair damaged bone, tissue

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – In 2018, approximately 324,000 men died from cancer in the United States. The combination of lung cancer, prostate cancer and colorectal cancer equated to half of those deaths.

Large percentages of each of these cancers can be prevented or treated if caught early. Now, Purdue University scientists have created a new therapy option that may help halt tumor growth in certain cancers such as prostate, which is among the most common types of cancer in men.

“We have designed a therapy that can help recruit immune cells to kill cancer and also help repair bone and tissues damaged by tumors,” said Marxa Figueiredo, associate professor of basic medical sciences in Purdue’s College of Veterinary Medicinewho helped lead the research team and is working with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization to patent the innovation. “One of the best features of this technology is that it shows great promise in enabling treatment for many other cancers and diseases that could benefit from halting tumor growth and promoting bone repair.”

The therapy technology is presented in the journal Molecular Therapy: Methods & Clinical Development.

The Purdue team used a protein called interleukin-27, or IL-27, which has shown promise in reducing tumor growth and helping stop cancer from spreading in the body. IL-27 is a cytokine, a kind of protein secreted by cells of the immune system that act as chemical messengers and can help the immune system target cancer and other diseases.

“Immune cells are naturally attracted to areas of the body with lots of signals that come from proteins such as IL-27,” Figueiredo said. “So, with our novel approach of targeting the IL-27 to the tumor or bone cells, we can use these proteins to produce signals that bring healthy cells to areas of the body with cancer or other disease and kill the tumors and begin the process of repairing bone and other musculoskeletal tissues.”

Figueiredo said the new Purdue therapy technology has applications for people and animals with many different types of cancer, including breast and lung, and other diseases where protein targeting could improve the immune system’s response.

The research team and the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization are looking for partners for this cancer therapy technology. For more information on licensing and other opportunities, contact Joseph Kasper of OTC at

About Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization

The Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization operates one of the most comprehensive technology transfer programs among leading research universities in the U.S. Services provided by this office support the economic development initiatives of Purdue University and benefit the university's academic activities through commercializing, licensing and protecting Purdue intellectual property. The office recently moved into the Convergence Center for Innovation and Collaboration in Discovery Park District, adjacent to the Purdue campus. The office is managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, which received the 2019 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Award for Place from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. The Purdue Research Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation created to advance the mission of Purdue University. Visit the Office of Technology Commercialization for more information.     

Writer: Chris Adam, 765-588-3341, 

Marxa Figueiredo, 


Ligand-mediated targeting of cytokine Interleukin-27 enhances its bioactivity in vivo

We have examined the role of a novel targeted cytokine, interleukin-27 (IL-27), modified at the Cterminus with a dual targeting and therapeutic heptapeptide, in treating prostate cancer. IL-27 has shown promise in halting tumor growth and mediating tumor regression in several cancer models, including prostate cancer. We describe our findings on the effects of targeted IL-27 gene delivery on prostate cancer cells in vitro and in vivo and how the targeting enhances bioactivity of the IL-27 cytokine. We applied the IL-27 gene delivery protocol utilizing sonoporation (sonodelivery) with the goal of reducing prostate tumor growth in an immunocompetent TC2R C57/BL6 model. The reduction in tumor growth and effector cellular profiles implicate targeted IL-27 as more effective than an untargeted version of IL-27 in promoting bioactivity, as assessed by STAT1 and IFNg reporter genes. Moreover, enhanced antitumor effects and significantly higher accumulation of NKT and CD8 effector cells in the tumors were observed. These results support a novel IL-27-based targeting strategy that is promising since it shows improved therapeutic efficacy while utilizing simple and effective sonodelivery methods.

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