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U-M researchers use nanoparticles to target brain cancer

Tiny particles one-billionth of a meter in size can be loaded with high concentrations of drugs designed to kill brain cancer. What's more, these nanoparticles can be used to image and track tumors as well as destroy them, according to researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Researchers incorporated a drug called Photofrin along with iron oxide into nanoparticles that would target cancerous brain tumors. Photofrin is a type of photodynamic therapy, in which the drug is drawn through the blood stream to tumor cells; a special type of laser light activates the drug to attack the tumor. Iron oxide is a contrast agent used to enhance magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI.

"Photofrin goes into tumor blood vessels and collapses the vasculature, which then starves the tumor of the blood flow needed to survive. The problem with free photofrin therapy is that it can cause damage to healthy tissue. In our study, the nanoparticle becomes a vehicle to deliver the drug directly to the tumor," says study author Brian Ross, Ph.D., professor of radiology at the U-M Medical School and co-director of Molecular Imaging at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Photofrin has been used to treat several types of cancer, including esophageal, bladder and skin cancers. It works by traveling through blood vessels until it reaches the vessels supplying blood to the tumor. When activated by light, the Photofrin collapses these blood vessels, starving the tumor of the blood it needs to survive.

Results of the study appear in the Nov. 15 issue of Clinical Cancer Research.

"Thinking outside the box is a must for developing brain cancer treatments. Drugs don't get into the brain when delivered in the normal way, which explains in part why some current treatments for brain tumors are generally not effective. Targeting the tumor vasculature with nanoparticles containing a payload will overcome these issues," says study author
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Source:University of Michigan Health System


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