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Nanotechnology is the rapidly growing frontiers of scientific research. Nanomedicine, a branch in the field, is set to revolutionize drug delivery to cancer cells. The procedure involves getting the chemotherapeutic drugs to the cancer cells, which is a challenge using current medicine and getting these cancer cells to absorb these drugs, an even greater challenge.
Remarkable drug delivery success was reported recently by the nanotechnology research team of Omid Farokhzad, MD, Brigham and Women Hospital (BWH) in the Department of Anesthesiology Perioperative and Pain medicine and Research.
The study is electronically published in ACS Nano. The BWH team in collaboration with researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Massachusetts General Hospital created a drug delivery system that is able to effectively deliver large amounts of chemotherapeutic drugs to prostate cancer cells.
Developing a drug delivery systems is all about precision and it is analogous to the process of designing a car. In this process you build a ‘vehicle’ with very desirable qualities, place a passenger inside (drug molecule) and send it to a destination (cancer cells). The vehicle used by this research are chemical compounds called ligands.
Most ligands mainly have the ability to bind to cells. This research team employed a strategy that allowed them to select specific ligands that were able to bind to prostate cancer cells, distinguish between cancer and non-cancer cells and were easily swallowed by cancer cells. The desirable qualities possessed by ligands is due to the nanoparticle which was added to it during design.
‘’Most ligands are engulfed by cells, but not efficiently’’ said Farokhzad. ‘’We designed one that is intended to be engulfed.’’ A major breakthrough in cancer therapy. Now significant amounts of drugs can be delivered to the cancer without harming other cells.
Cancer cells carry multiple markers or identifiers which interact with ligands, the ligand-nanoparticles component are able interact with a lot of these cancer markers. This strategy produces a versatility and potency that is not available in other drug delivery systems.
Currently, the available strategies used in cancer therapy involved combining nanoparticles with ligands to target well known cancer markers. This has always been a flawed strategy because “most cancer cells do not have identifiable cell surface markers which distinguishes them from normal cells,” according to the study’s lead author Zeyu Xiao a reseacher in BWH.
‘’In this study we developed a unique strategy that enables the nanoparticles to specifically target and efficiently be engulfed into any desired types and sub-types of cancer cells, even if their cancer markers are unknown’’ said Xiao ‘’ Our strategy simplifies the development process of targete nanoparticles and broadens their application in cancer therapy’’.