University of Arizona researchers may have found a way to deliver chemotherapeutic drugs to cancer tissues in controlled doses without harming healthy body cells.
If successful, the invention of gold-coated liposomes could make chemotherapy more effective to destroy cancer cells and alleviate the harmful side effects that can result from the treatment.
The invention by Marek Romanowski, an associate professor of biomedical engineering in the UA College of Engineering and a member of the BIO5 Institute and the Arizona Cancer Center, and his lab team doesn't have a silver lining. Better: It has a lining of gold. The secret to non-invasively controlling the release of chemotherapeutic drugs lies in nano-scale capsules made of lipids and coated with a fine layer of gold.
Chemotherapeutic drugs are sometimes encased in small capsules called liposomes, which are made of organic lipids that are already present in human cells. The lipid encasing keeps the body's immune system from attacking the foreign molecule before it can deliver the drug.
Once released into the bloodstream, drug-carrying liposomes accumulate around a cancer tumor because of a property known as leaky vasculature: Tumor cells have extra openings to blood vessels to take in nutrients carried in the bloodstream, usually because they are trying to grow more quickly than normal cells. The extra blood flow means that more nutrients, and also more liposomes, are likely to accumulate in the tumor cells where they eventually break down and release the drug into the cells, leading to cell death.
The highly toxic drugs used for chemotherapy destroy cancer cells, but with no way to discriminate between cell types, they can also damage healthy cells. This damage to the body's normal, healthy cells leads to the side effects normally associated with chemotherapy treatments: anemia, hair loss, vomiting as cells that make up stomach lining are destroyed and nausea, amon
|Contact: Daniel Stolte|
University of Arizona