The delivery system makes use of the bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli) which has been genetically altered to produce a specific artificial polypeptide known as a chimeric polypeptide. Since E. coli are commonly used to produce proteins, it makes for a simple and reliable production plant for these specific polypeptides with high yield.
When attached to one of these chimeric polypeptides, the drug takes on characteristics that the drug alone does not possess. Most drugs do not dissolve in water, which limits their ability to be taken in by cells. But being attached to a nanoparticle makes the drug soluble.
"When these two elements are combined in a container, they spontaneously self-assemble into a water-soluble nanoparticle," Chilkoti said. "They also self-assemble consistently and reliably in a size of 50 nanometers or so that makes them ideal for cancer therapy. Since many chemotherapeutic drugs are insoluble, we believe that this new approach could work for them as well."
The latest experiments involved doxorubicin, a commonly used agent for the treatment of cancers of the blood, breast, ovaries and other organs. The researchers injected mice with tumors implanted under their skin with either the chimeric polypeptide-doxorubicin combination or doxorubicin alone.
The mice treated with doxorubicin alone had an average tumor size 25 times greater than those treated with the new combination. The average survival time for the doxorubicin-treated mice was 27 days, compared to more than 66 days for mice getting the new formulation.
The Duke researchers now plan to test the new combination on different types of cancer, as well as tumors growing within different organs. They will also try combining these chimeric polypeptides with other insoluble drugs and test their effectiveness against tumors.
|Contact: Richard Merritt|