Nanoparticle delivery systems can be used to dramatically improve the precision of chemotherapy administration, according to a study performed at the University of California-Irvine.
Currently, cancer medications suffer from a weak targeting system. Oftentimes, chemo drugs are disseminated throughout the body, attacking both cancerous and healthy tissue. Due to this unfocused attack, cancer-fighting agents that actually attack the tumor are often not enough to adequately destroy the invading cancer cells.
To improve precision, UC Irvine researchers looked at nanoparticles as a potential means for targeted drug administration. Specifically, the team used a unique amino acid sequence that targets liver cells. When added to a nanoparticle delivery system and injected intravenously, the drug nearly exclusively targeted liver cells while ignoring other organs in the body.
The new technique has the potential to greatly improve the effectiveness of cancer treatment. More over, chemotherapy treatments may also be engineered to be much safer, with fewer side effects displayed by the patient.
While initial studies were conducted on liver tissue, the IC Irvine team is confident that the procedure could be incorporated universally, regardless of tumor location. As the team points out, all cell types exhibit unique polysaccharide segments that might be targeted through the use of engineered nanoparticles.
Additionally, nanoparticles should even be able to specifically target cancer cells within a particular organ. As head researchers at UC Irvine Dr. Richard Robertson and Dr. Kenneth Longmuir explain, “Tumors are surrounded by polysaccharides. The composition of these polysaccharides appears to be different compared to normal tissue. The next step in our investigation is to develop amino acid sequences that specifically recognize polysaccharide compositions found in tumors, but not in normal tissue.”
Fatigue, hair loss, skin sores and many other cancer side effects are the direct result of chemotherapy drugs attacking healthy cells. Thanks to this focused approach, cancer patients may one day experience a dramatic reduction in side effects.