Delivering Drugs Inside Aggressive Tumors

Delivering Drugs Inside Aggressive Tumors
Cancer cell (Image source)
Researchers have discovered a promising new method for delivering drugs into aggressive tumors by exploiting a unique feature of tumors themselves. The novel delivery system was published in the journal Nature.
The project built upon ten years of research into the role microRNAs play in the development and spread of cancer. The foundation of the work was an earlier nanoparticle delivery system developed to treat lymphomas in mice genetically engineered. The early work showed that novel delivery systems could slow down the progress of aggressive lymphoma. The next step was to improve the delivery system by incorporating discoveries in pHLIP peptides delivering biological agents to aggressive disseminated tumors, and in designing and synthesizing DNA analogs for gene and cancer therapy.
MicroRNAs may be tiny, as few as 20 genetic letters compared to 3 billion in the DNA of a human, but they play a major role in biology, helping determine which genes are expressed or silenced. However, their potential as a cancer therapy has not been realized because of a daunting problem that has held back clinical applications of gene therapy: How can you target a minute piece of genetic material locked safely in nuclear membranes of billions of cells? The team may have solved the problem by designing an even better therapeutic molecule that both penetrates cells and targets the acidic microenvironments of tumors. The new delivery system effectively killed advanced tumors in mice.
This opens up a new pathway to gene therapy, not just for treatment of cancer but for a host of other diseases as well.