Nanoparticle Technique Delivers More Medicine to Tumors

Extremely tiny particles, or nanoparticles, can now be loaded with 20 times more cancer drugs than ever before, and the load delivered direct to malignant tissue, avoiding many of the awful side effects of cancer chemotherapy, recent research demonstrated. The study, published online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, employed a safe, biodegradable polymer, or chain molecule, that had been chemically crafted to disrupt the so-called MARK signaling pathway that's involved in most human cancers.

  
The scientists, from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, found a way to chemically alter the polymer to allow for the 20-fold extra drug loading, overcoming the main difficulty in nanomedicine today, that of low efficiency in drug loading.
   
“Current chemotherapy drugs must be administered in high concentration throughout the body in order to destroy tumor cells, translating to high toxicity and discomfort for the patient, mainly due to the effects on normal cells,” said co-lead author Rania Harfouche in a Brigham and Women’s news release.
   
The new particles would “allow for lower drug concentrations to be used, and provide opportunity for more potent treatments with lesser side effects for the patient,” Harfouche said.
   
The scientists found in their lab tests that nanoparticles carrying the cancer drug cisplatin halted the growth of malignant skin and lung cells and even stimulated cell death. In mice, the drug-carrying nanoparticles suppressed tumor growth, the researchers said.

“The nanoparticles target pathways involved in multiple cancer types and can be applied to a diverse set of cancers, including hard-to-treat cancers, such as breast, pancreatic and liver cancer,” senior author Shiladitya Sengupta said in the news release. “The potential to add homing beacons on the surface of the nanoparticles can increase the efficiency of selectively targeting specific tumors and abolish off-target side effects.”


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