A Shanghai-based team of medical researchers claims to have developed a targeted drug delivery “nanoplatform” that fights cancer by locating malignant tumours and deploying medicine to attack the diseased area.
The scientists say the novel treatment inhibits the spread of cancer while simultaneously assisting with the body’s immune response. While the treatment could see use in clinical applications, it was especially promising in subjects with breast cancer.
Widely used cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, while effective at inhibiting the spread of the disease, are harsh on the body, causing significant nausea, diarrhoea, fatigue, mouth ulcers and generalised pain.
Chemotherapy also targets the body’s healthy, fast-growing cells, such as hair follicles, meaning many patients suffer from rapid hair loss. Treatment also often fails when the drugs don’t effectively prevent metastasis in the afflicter’s lymphatic and blood vessels.
The scientists responsible for the breakthrough, headed up by Shi Xiangyang and Cao Xueyan from the Shanghai Engineering Research Centre of Nano-Biomaterials and Regenerative Medicine, say their breakthrough comes off of more than a decade of research and development in the relatively new field of nanotechnology.
Their work, published in Small, a peer-reviewed journal dedicated to science and technology at a micro and nanoscopic scale, is focused on several modern techniques to target and limit the growth of cancer at the site, as well as any metastasis that may occur away from the primary tumour.
The team likened their new nanoplatform drug delivery system to an aircraft carrier carrying microscopic, cancer-fighting medicine and releasing them at the site like so many fighter jets. The “carrier” is made from a biocompatible polymer that can change its shape size depending on the environment.
During their experiments, Shi and his fellow scientists loaded the polymer base with Lyp-1, a synthetic nano-peptide that binds to a protein called p32 that is overexpressed in malignant cells and is especially common in breast cancer cases.
The polymer also carries copper sulphide which, when exposed to near-infrared light radiation from photothermal ablation therapy, helps slow and even halt metastasis, and DMXAA, commonly referred to as Vadimezan, a flavone-acetic acid-based drug that destroys tumours by cutting off their access to blood, leading to the necrosis of the cancerous tissue.
The nanoplatform released the drugs consistently and had a high photothermal conversion efficiency, according to the team’s research paper. Shi said the platform has been tested in vitro, and the results made him and his team hopeful that the novel drug delivery method will be further developed and eventually see clinical trials.