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Using a polymer that has both water-soluble and water-insoluble regions, a team of investigators from the Siteman Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence has created a nanoparticle shaped like a bialy, a close relative of the bagel. Combining this nanoparticle with manganese, a metal that boosts magnetic resonance imaging signals, and an antibody that targets blood vessels, the investigators then created a new type of imaging agent that also has the potential to deliver drugs to tumors.
Gregory Lanza, M.D., and Samuel Wickline, M.D., both at Washington University of St. Louis, led the research team that set out to create a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) contrast agent based on manganese rather than gadolinium, which is widely used today in a variety of medical imaging applications. Recent reports showing that gadolinium-based contrast agents can produce irreversible kidney damage in some patients have prompted the imaging community to search for equally effective but safer contrast agents. Manganese may fit this bill, but only with a means of delivering it to targeted tissues.
Nanobialys that self-assemble from the polymer poly(ethyleneimine) appear to have promise as such a delivery agent. The bialy shape, also known as a torus, has a large surface area exposed to water, a key for manganese to function as an effective MRI contrast agent. When the bialys form in the presence of manganese, the metal becomes incorporated stably in the nanostructure. Once formed, the investigators were able to add vascular targeting molecules using a mild chemical coupling reaction to the nanobialy polymer.
Using a targeting agent that binds to fibrin, a major component of clots that form in blood vessels, the investigators were able to image clots using MRI in an in vitroassay system. The investigators were also able to load the nanobialys with two different anticancer agents—doxorubicin, which is water soluble, and camptothecin, which is water insoluble. The researchers plan further tests with these drug-loaded, targeted nanobialys.
About National Cancer Institute
To help meet the goal of reducing the burden of cancer, the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, is engaged in efforts to harness the power of nanotechnology to radically change the way we diagnose, treat and prevent cancer.
The NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer is a comprehensive, systematized initiative encompassing the public and private sectors, designed to accelerate the application of the best capabilities of nanotechnology to cancer.
Currently, scientists are limited in their ability to turn promising molecular discoveries into benefits for cancer patients. Nanotechnology can provide the technical power and tools that will enable those developing new diagnostics, therapeutics, and preventives to keep pace with today’s explosion in knowledge.
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