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Tiny Trojan horses attack brain cancer cells
Date:11/17/2010

Scientists in Germany have developed a way of smuggling an anti-cancer drug past the protective blood-brain barrier and into brain tumours and metastases using a nanocarrier a tiny capsule specially designed to pass through cell membranes and deliver its anti-cancer drug to the cancer cell.

The blood-brain barrier is formed by a network of closely sealed endothelial cells in the brain's capillaries, and it expresses a high level of proteins that pump foreign molecules away from the brain, while allowing others (such as glucose and insulin) that are necessary to the functioning of the brain cells to cross the barrier. This makes it very difficult for molecules, including anti-cancer drugs, to cross the blood-brain barrier and reach tumour cells in the brain. Currently, less than five per cent of drugs are able to cross the barrier and new therapies are needed urgently.

In the research presented today (Thursday) at the 22nd EORTC-NCI-AACR [1] Symposium on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics in Berlin, the scientists describe how they designed the nanocarrier with lipid membranes encapsulating and protecting an anti-cancer drug, mitoxantrone, and harnessed it to an existing technology, Angiopep, to get through the blood-brain barrier. Angiopep is a small peptide (amino acid compound) that has been designed to reach brain cells by making use of the receptors on the surface of the blood-brain barrier that are responsible for actively transporting necessary molecules through the barrier to the brain. [2]

The nanocarrier, or Trojan Horse Liposome (THL), has a diameter of between 100-120 nanometres (a nanometre (nm) is one billionth of a metre), equivalent to 1000th the size of a fine grain of sand or 400 time smaller than a human hair. In laboratory membrane experiments, the researchers found that the THL was effective at being taken up by epithelial and glioma cancer cells. Then they tested it on mice with brain metastases from brea
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Contact: Emma Mason
wordmason@mac.om
ECCO-the European CanCer Organisation
Source:Eurekalert

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