Thursday, October 21, 2010

Exciting New Cancer Research Using Nanotechnology!

Dr. Lorenzo Berti, a UC Davis researcher, recently received a grant for $450,000 from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation for his new research on nanotechnology and cancer treatment. Berti is developing nanoparticles to target and destroy tumor cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed.

The concept is to have nanoparticles reach a tumor and deposit chemotherapy drugs directly into cancer cells. The nanoparticles, which act as transportation for the medication, travel through the blood stream. Once they reach a cancerous tumor, they will actually fall out of the bloodstream and onto or near the tumor, as the blood vessels that feed malignant tumors have much larger holes in them than normal blood vessels. By this theory, there would be an accumulation of nanoparticles on and around a tumor.

"What we want to put on these nanoparticles is a combination of two drugs," he said.
The first weakens cancer cells and makes them more susceptible to medication, he said. The second is a classic chemotherapy drug called doxorubicin. "Very effective but also very toxic," he said.

Traditional chemotherapy affects all cells, causing terrible side effects throughout the whole body. The nanoparticles are magnetic and therefore easily traceable using MRI scans. They are also nontoxic and easily broken down by the body.

Further research into nanotechnology and cancer treatment is being done at MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Researchers have developed a nanoparticle that can deliver precise doses of two or more drugs to prostate cancer cells.

In a study appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers tailored their nanoparticles to deliver two common kinds of chemotherapy drugs, cisplatin and docetaxel. The researchers developed nanoparticles that could carry different drugs with different physical properties, which had been impossible with previous technology because the drugs on the nanoparticles had to be similar to each other in order to have the most success.
The new nanoparticles also contain a receptor that binds to a molecule called PSMA, which is located on the surfaces of most prostate tumor cells. This allows the nanoparticles to hone in on the cancer cell and ignore the healthy cells. This treatment will help to reduce the negative side effects caused by most chemotherapy drugs. With the drugs affecting mostly just cancer cells, a patient may be able to receive much higher doses of the required drug, thereby receiving more potent and precise treatment.

The delivery of chemotherapy drugs via nanotechnology is currently being tested on animals.

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