Nanotechnology in Chemotherapy

There is ongoing research on the use of nanoparticles in chemotherapy. Chemotherapy, which has been used for years to treat cancer, can cause serious damage to the human body. Using nanoparticles, for example, it may be possible to destroy cancer tumors with minimal damage to healthy tissue and without the serious side effects often caused by chemotherapy treatments.

This page provides a survey of the nanotechnology based methods being developed to improve chemotherapy.

A Survey of Nanoparticles in Chemotherapy

One treatment under development involves targeted chemotherapy that delivers a tumor-killing agent called tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF) to cancer tumors.  TNF is attached to a gold nanoparticle along with Thiol-derivatized polyethylene glycol (PEG-THIOL), which hides the TNF bearing nanoparticle from the immune system. This allows the nanoparticle to flow through the blood stream without being attacked. For more details read the article at this link. The company developing this targeted chemotherapy method to deliver TNF and other chemotherapy drugs to cancer tumors is called CytImmune.

Another targeted chemotherapy treatment under development uses a nanoparticle called CRLX101. The company developing this targeted chemotherapy method is called Cerulean Pharma.

Cristal Therapeutics is conducting Phase 1 clincal trails using nanoparticles called CriPec® to deliver a drug called docetaxel to tumors.

Researchers at Purdue University are using silicon nanoneedles to develop a wearable patch that can deliver chemotherapy drugs to the skin for treatment of melanoma.

Researchers at MIT are developing nanoparticles designed to pass through the brain barrier and target tumors of a type of brain cancer called glioblastoma, delivering two chemothreapy drugs to the tumor.

Researchers at the University of Tornoto have demonstrated the use of manganese dioxide nanoparticles designed to concentrate in a tumor and generate oxygen can increase the effectiveness of the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin.

Researchers at UCLA have demonstrated the use of mesoporous silica nanoparticles to deliver the chemotherapy drug irinotecan to pancreatic cancer tumors. Testing on mice indicates that this method reduces the toxity of the chemotherapy.

Researchers at the University of Georgia are working on a method to fight prostate cancer. They are using nanoparticles to deliver a molecule called IPA-3 to the cancer cells. In laboratory mice studies the IPA-3 appears to reduce the growth of prostate cancer cells.

Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center have used nanoparticles called dendrimers to deliver nucleic acids that suppress tumors to liver cancer tumors. The researchers have demonstrated, in lab tests, that this method can reduced tumor growth in mice.

Researchers at the University of Leicester and three other universities are developing synthetic polymer nanoparticles, or nanoMIPs, which may result in improved delivery of chemotherapy drugs to cancer cells.

Researchers are developing graphene strips to deliver different drugs to  specific regions of cancer cells. When the graphene strip reaches the cancer cell one drug seperates from the graphene and attacks the cell membrane while the graphene strip enters the cell and delivers the second drug to the cell nucleus.

Researchers at MIT are developing nanoparticles that carry precise ratios of three different drugs. They are testing the effectiveness of this approach on ovarian cancer cells.

Researchers at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz have developed a method to attach antibodies to nanocapsules that they believe builds more stable nanocapsules, which will improve the ability of the nanocapsule to deliver drugs to cancer cells.

Researchers at UCLA are investigating a method to fight pancreatic cancer using two different nanoparticles. The first nanoparticle removes material on the exterior of the cancer cells that block the entry of chemotherapy drugs, the second nanoparticle carries the chemothreapy drug. Testing this method on laboratory mice showed significantly faster shrinkage of the tumors than other methods.

Researchers are testing the use of chemotherapy drugs attached to nanodiamonds to treat brain tumors. The nanodiamond/chemotherapy drug combination stays in the tumor longer than the chemotherapy drug by itself, which should increase the effectiveness.

Researchers are also testing the use of chemotherapy drugs attached to nanodiamonds to treat leukemia. It turns out that leukemia cancer cells can pump chemotherapy drugs out of the cancer cell, limiting the effectiveness of the drug. The cancer cell can not pump the nanodiamond out, so attaching the drug molecules to nanodiamonds results in the drug staying in the cancer cell longer.

Researchers are connecting different DNA strands together into a structure they call a "nanotrain".  They have demostrated in lab studies that these nanotrains are effective in delivering chemothreapy drugs to cancer cells, and that by using different DNA strands they can customize which type of cancer cells the nanotrains target.

Researchers are developing a nanoparticle that both delivers a chemotherapy drug and stimulates the immune system to attack cancer cells. They have tested the method on mice with positive results.

A method being developed to fight bladder cancer uses nanoparticles called micelles to deliver a chemotherapy drug called paclitaxel to bladder cancer cells.

An improved way to shield nanoparticles delivering chemotherapy drugs from the immune system has been developed by forming the nanoparticles from the membranes of red blood cells.

Researchers have demonstrated a method of delivering a protein to cancer cells that destroys the cancer cells. They use a polymer nanoshell to deliver the protein into the cancer cells. When the protein accumlates in the nucleus of the cancer cell the protein causes the cancer cell to self-destruct.

Using polymer nanoparticles to deliver a molecule called JSI-124 to cancer tumors. This molecule degrades the ability of the cancer cells to suppress the immune system, possibly slowing the growth of cancer tumors. For more details read the article at this link.

Another technique delivers chemotherapy drugs to cancer cells and also applies heat to the cell. Researchers are using gold nanorods to which DNA strands are attached. The DNA strands act as a scaffold, holding together the nanorod and the chemotherapy drug. When Infrared light illuminates the cancer tumor the gold nanorod absorbs the infrared light, turning it into heat. The heat both releases the chemotherapy drug and helps destroy the cancer cells.

Reseachers have demonstrated a nanoparticle that kills lymphoma cancer cells. They use a nanoparticle which looks like HDL cholesterol, but with a gold nanoparicle at it's core. When this nanoparticle attaches to a lymphoma cell it blocks the cancer cell from attaching to real HLD cholesterol, starving the cancer cell.

A method being developed to fight skin cancer uses gold nanoparticles to which RNA molecules are attached. The nanoparticles are in an ointment that is applied to the skin. The nanoparticles penetrate the skin and the RNA attaches to a cancer related gene, stopping the gene from generating proteins that are used in the growth of skin cancer tumors.


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