Innovative nanopharmaceuticals: targeting breast cancer stem cells by a novel combination of epigenetic and anticancer drugs with gene therapy


Call the 7th Joint Transnational Call for Proposals for “European Innovative Research & Technological Development Projects in Nanomedicine” within the framework of the ERA-NET EuroNanoMed-II
Implementation period 01.03.2017. – 28.02.2020.
Project coordinator Dr. Lucia Kucerova, Cancer Research Institute, Biomedical Research Center, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Slovakia
Project partners Latvian Institute of Organic Synthesis, Latvia
Hospital Universitari Vall d’Hebron, Barcelona, Spain
University of Bergen Biomaterials, Bergen, Norway
Norwegian Institute for Air Research, Kjeller, Norway
Project homepage Innocent
Leader of Latvian team Dr. Aiva Plotniece
Total costs 1 463 072 EUR
Costs for Latvian partner 209 770 EUR


The INNOCENT project combines multidisciplinary approaches aiming at overcoming several limitations regarding the therapy of solid tumours, specifically of breast cancer. The alarming increase in breast cancer incidence, indicate the urgent need to develop novel therapeutic strategies to overcome the low efficacy of cancer treatment, with frequent relapses. Metastases and recurrence of the disease are believed to be caused by subpopulations of tumour cells with aggressive phenotype resistant to chemotherapeutics – cancer stem cells. Recent advances in nanoscience and nanotechnology provide unique opportunities for targeted delivery of anticancer drugs to tumour tissues while minimizing their unwanted side effects and toxicity. The use of multiple therapeutic approaches in combination has become the primary strategy to treat drug-resistant cancers.

The aim of the INNOCENT project is to develop innovative multifunctional nanopharmaceutical to overcome the low efficacy and frequent relapses in breast cancer treatment, with emphasis on cancer stem cells. The proposed multimodal nanodrug COMBOBOMB, will integrate the diagnostic and therapeutic functions within a single nanostructure. The COMBOBOMB harbours four major components: 1) a selective targeting moiety; 2) a diagnostic imaging aid for localization of the malignant tumour and its micro- or macrometastases; 3) a cytotoxic drug; and 4) a chemosensitising epigenetic agent (pro-drug along with particular drug-metabolizing enzyme based on the gene therapy approach) to increase its efficacy. The rationally designed multifunctional nanodrug will offer new possibilities of penetration into tumour niches and open new horizons for cancer treatment. The COMBOBOMB has the potential to be used as neoadjuvant therapy, to decrease the probability of tumour cell dissemination (mainly via the cancer stem cell subpopulation).