Infinitesimal Bundles Obliterate Cancer Cells

How to poison cancer cells without poisoning the rest of the body? That was the key question in a recent study, which appeared in the American Cancer Society's Nano Letters, in which scientists developed bundles of cancer-cell poison wrapped in a harmless sheath that were so minute they were only one-five-thousandth the width of a human hair. The poison, known as ceramide, is deadly not only to cancer tissue but to the body's normal cells - and is insoluble in the bloodstream.

But wrapping the so-called nanoparticles in harmless and blood-soluble calcium phosphate to make calcium phosphate nanocomposite particles (CPNPs) created a delivery system that sent ceramide straight to dangerous human melanoma skin cancer cells in laboratory cultures and killed 95 percent of them. The CPNPs were also highly effective against drug-resistant human breast cancer cells that were also grown in the lab.

 Ceramide is a natural product that is part of the body's normal cell membranes. For unknown reasons, when its concentration rises in a cell, the cell soon undergoes natural death. "Ceramide is the substance that accumulates in cancer tissues and helps to kill cancer cells when patients undergo chemotherapy and radiation," said Mark Kester, professor of pharmacology at Penn State College of Medicine, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, speaking about a previous study he performed in mice.

"By boosting the amount of ceramide through an injection in the bloodstream, our study in mice suggests that we can provide a stronger cancer-killing therapy without additional side effects." Once the ceramide is injected, it's naturally attracted to tumor cells, sparing the surrounding healthy tissue. The calcium phosphate-encased ceramide travels through the bloodstream to the cancer where it enters the malignant cells through the tumor's "leaky" blood system.

 The ceramide disrupt the cells' energy-producing mitochondria, killing the malignancy. The chemical also strangles the vascular network that feeds the tumor. Penn State Research Foundation has licensed the CPNP technology, which it calls NanoJackets, to Keystone Nano Inc.


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