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DNA-built nanostructures safely target, image cancer tumors
Date:1/27/2014

A team of researchers at the University of Toronto has discovered a method of assembling "building blocks" of gold nanoparticles as the vehicle to deliver cancer medications or cancer-identifying markers directly into cancerous tumors. The study, led by Warren Chan, Professor at the Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) and the Donnelly Centre for Cellular & Biomolecular Research (CCBR), appears in an article in Nature Nanotechnology this week.

"To get materials into a tumor they need to be a certain size," explains Chan. "Tumors are characterized by leaky vessels with holes roughly 50 500 nanometers in size, depending on the tumor type and stage. The goal is to deliver particles small enough to get through the holes and 'hang out' in the tumor's space for the particles to treat or image the cancer. If particle is too large, it can't get in, but if the particle is too small, it leaves the tumor very quickly."

Chan and his researchers solved this problem by creating modular structures 'glued' together with DNA. "We're using a 'molecular assembly' model - taking pieces of materials that we can now fabricate accurately and organizing them into precise architectures, like putting LEGO blocks together," cites Leo Chou, a 5th year PhD student at IBBME and first author of the paper. Chou was awarded a 2012-13 Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation Ontario Region Fellowship for his work with nanotechnology.

"The major advantage of this design strategy is that it is highly modular, which allows you to 'swap' components in and out. This makes it very easy to create systems with multiple functions, or screen a large library of nanostructures for desirable biological behaviors," he states.

The long-term risk of toxicity from particles that remain in the body, however, has been a serious challenge to nanomedical research.

"Imagine you're a cancer patient in your 30s," describes Chan. "And you've had mul
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Contact: Erin Vollick
comm.ibbme@utoronto.ca
416-946-8019
University of Toronto
Source:Eurekalert

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