Short, customized carbon nanotubes have the potential to deliver drugs to pancreatic cancer cells and destroy them from within, according to researchers at Rice University and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Pristine nanotubes produced through a new process developed at Rice can be modified to carry drugs to tumors through gaps in blood-vessel walls that larger particles cannot fit through.
The nanotubes may then target and infiltrate the cancerous cells' nuclei, where the drugs can be released through sonication that is, by shaking them.
The research led by Rice chemist Andrew Barron was reported in the Royal Society of Chemistry's Journal of Materials Chemistry B.
Most pancreatic cancer patients die within a year of diagnosis and have a five-year survival rate of 6 percent, partially because there is no method for early detection, according to the American Cancer Society. Tumors are often inoperable and pancreatic cancer cells are also difficult to reach with chemotherapy, said co-author Jason Fleming, a professor of surgical oncology at MD Anderson.
"These findings are encouraging because they offer a potential delivery solution for pancreatic cancer patients whose tumors resist standard chemotherapy," Fleming said. "There are molecular and biological barriers to efficient delivery of chemotherapy to pancreatic cancer tumors, and these nanotubes might be able to make some of those irrelevant."
Rice scientists made nanotubes pure enough to modify for the purpose and small enough to squeeze through the body's defenses, Barron said. The researchers knew from previous work that nanotubes could be modified a process called functionalization to carry chemotherapy agents and release them at a controlled rate through sonication.
"This time, we were trying to work out how long the tubes should be and the extent of functionalization to maximize uptake by the cells," Barron
|Contact: David Ruth|