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A Purdue University biochemist has demonstrated a process using nanotechnology to better assess whether cancer drugs hit their targets, which may help reduce drug side effects. W. Andy Tao, an associate professor of biochemistry analytical chemistry, developed a nanopolymer that can be coated with drugs, enter cells, and then removed to identify the cellular proteins to which the attached drug binds. Dr. Tao believes that since the nanopolymers are water soluble, they also may serve as a delivery system for drugs that do not dissolve in water effectively.
"Many cancer drugs are not very specific. They target many different proteins," said Dr. Tao, whose findings were published in the journal Analytical Chemistry. "That can have a consequence - what we call side effects."
In addition to the drug, the synthetic nanopolymer is equipped with a chemical group that is reactive to small beads. The beads retrieve the nanopolymer and any attached proteins after the drug has done its work. Dr. Tao and his collaborators used mass spectrometry to determine which proteins were present and have been targeted by the drug. Knowing which proteins are targeted would allow drug developers to test whether new drugs target only desired proteins or others as well. Eliminating unintended protein targets could reduce the often-serious side effects associated with cancer drugs.
Dr. Tao said there currently is no reliable way to test drugs for off-targeting. He said drugs are often designed to inhibit or activate the function of a biomolecule associated with cancer, but those drugs tend to fail in late-stage clinical tests.
About The National Cancer Institute (NCI)
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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