Dra. Hanan Abumanhal del Technion (Technion) (Technion)
Dr. Hanan Abumanhal of the Technion

Israeli-Arab researcher at the Technion in Haifa discovers that nano-sized baking soda placed near a tumor improves the cancer treatment, especially in breast cancer.

By Yakir Benzion, United With Israel

Baking soda, the simple household product familiar to everybody, may revolutionize the treatment of breast cancer, researchers at Israel’s Technion Institute have discovered.

A graduate research student at the Technion Institute has found a revolutionary solution for the treatment of breast cancer, showing that sodium bicarbonate – baking soda – can increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatment because this natural substance changes the acidity of the cancerous tumor and thus increases the effectiveness of chemotherapy.

“Many studies show and emphasize the importance of the environment of the tumor in supporting cancer cells and the ability of the cells to penetrate nearby tissues and send metastases to other organs of the body,” explained Dr. Hanan Abumanhal, a resident of northern Israel who got her PhD degree last week at the prestigious institution.

Dr. Abumanhal knew that environmental changes in the cancerous tumor tissue can affect the response of cells to treatments and encourage the development of resistance to anti-cancer treatment.

“That is why it is important to develop a synergistic treatment that changes the entire environmental balance and thus ‘suffocate’ the tumor,” she explained.

Dr. Abumanhal focused on a particularly aggressive version of breast cancer, a version created from a combination of mutations and therefore relatively resistant to existing treatments. She developed nano-particles containing baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) which can be localized on cancerous tumors.

“In this way they changed the acidity of the tissue and thus increased the penetration chemotherapeutic drugs,” she said, explaining that cancer cells are characterized by a more acidic environment than that prevailing in other body tissues.

The nano particles of baking soda reduce the acidity in the area of the tumor.

“Healthy cells also increase acidity when required for rapid energy production, but in cancer cells this is the dominant pathway for energy generation in the cell; acidity makes the cancer cells more aggressive and more metastatic,” she said. “Introducing baking soda using the method we have developed will make it possible to reduce the dose of the drug and thus reduce the side effects.”

Thus, by using a simple compound injected into the area of the tumor using very sophisticated nano-technology methods, the anti-cancer activity of chemotherapeutic drugs is enhanced and may improve treatment of the disease.

Abumanhal, from the city of Umm al-Fahm, is married to a pediatrician and the mother of two, received her doctorate at the Technion after completing her bachelor’s and master’s degree in the excellence programs in pharmaceutical sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

In 2016, she was one of four winners of the prestigious Ariane de Rothschild four-year research scholarship, which recognizes excellence. The threshold for admission to the program is particularly high and allows doctoral students to focus on their research field.

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