Stimuli-Responsive Hydrogel Microcapsules Harnessing the COVID-19 Immune Response for Cancer Therapeutics

Amit Fischer, Avner Ehrlich, Yevgeni Plotkin, Yu Ouyang, Klil Asulin, Ioannidis Konstantinos, Chunhai Fan*, Yaakov Nahmias*, Itamar Willner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The combination of gene therapy and immunotherapy concepts, along recent advances in DNA nanotechnology, have the potential to provide important tools for cancer therapies. We present the development of stimuli-responsive microcapsules, loaded with a viral immunogenetic agent, harnessing the immune response against the Coronavirus Disease 2019, COVID-19, to selectively attack liver cancer cells (hepatoma) or recognize breast cancer or hepatoma, by expression of green fluorescence protein, GFP. The pH-responsive microcapsules, modified with DNA-tetrahedra nanostructures, increased hepatoma permeation by 50 %. Incorporation of a GFP-encoding lentivirus vector inside the tumor-targeting pH-stimulated miRNA-triggered and Alpha-fetoprotein-dictated microcapsules enables the demonstration of neoplasm selectivity, with approximately 5,000-, 8,000- and 50,000-fold more expression in the cancerous cells, respectively. The incorporation of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein in the gene vector promotes specific recognition of the immune-evading hepatoma by the COVID-19-analogous immune response, which leads to cytotoxic and inflammatory activity, mediated by serum components taken from vaccinated or recovered COVID-19 patients, resulting in effective elimination of the hepatoma (>85 % yield).

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere202311590
JournalAngewandte Chemie - International Edition
Issue number43
StatePublished - 23 Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Angewandte Chemie International Edition published by Wiley-VCH GmbH.


  • Alpha-Fetoprotein
  • Cancer
  • DNA-Tetrahedra
  • Immunotherapy
  • Lentivirus


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