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A research team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)-Harvard Center for Nanotechnology Excellence has custom-designed nanoparticles that can deliver the anticancer drug cisplatin specifically to prostate cancer cells. The nanoparticles are composed of two different polymers and are decorated with a nucleic acid aptamer that binds to the tumor marker prostate-specific membrane antigen. This aptamer ensures that the nanoparticles deliver their payload only to prostate cancer cells.
Stephen Lippard, Ph.D., and Robert Langer, Ph.D., MIT, and Omid Farokhzad, M.D., Harvard Medical School, led the team that developed this new formation of cisplatin. The investigators published their results in the Proceedings of the NationalAcademy of Sciences of the United States of America.
To construct a stable nanoparticle that would only release its toxic cargo inside tumor cells, the investigators synthesized a modified version of cisplatin that includes a long hydrocarbon chain. As the nanoparticle forms, the hydrocarbon chain associates strongly with the hydrophobic chains of the polymer that forms the nanoparticle's core. The researchers note that the hydrocarbon chain they chose optimizes both drug encapsulation and drug release inside tumor cells. Once the nanoparticle enters the cell, the modified drug is converted into its active form as a result of chemical conditions inside the cell.
Tests with human cancer cells growing in culture showed that these nanoparticles were taken up specifically by tumor cells and not by healthy cells. Nanoparticles lacking the targeting aptamer were not taken up either. These tests also demonstrated that the nanoparticles release their cargo over the course of 60 hours, providing a sustained lethal level of the drug inside the targeted cells. In addition, the nanoparticle formulation was approximately 100 times more effective at killing tumor cells than was cisplatin by itself.
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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