Using Nanoparticles as drugs vectors

Cancer tumors secrete enzymes are triggered by peptide coatings (blue) to slice the coatings open, safely delivering an anti-cancer drug (red). Credit: Cassandra E. Callmann et al./Advanced Materials

Finding a drug that is effective in killing a bacteria, a virus or a cancer cell is just half the story. To make it work you need to take the drug to the right place where it can be in touch with its target. You need a vector.

This is where the work of Cassandra Callmann, a PhD student at the University of California, San Diego, comes in.

In a research led by Nathan Gianneschi, professor of Chemistry and Bio.chemistry at UCSD, Cassandra has found a way to create a drug container made by a nanoparticle that would release the drug it is carrying when in contact with a specific enzyme, the one that is produced by cancer cell and used to detach from the original location of the tumour giving rise to metastases. 

Cassandra has been able to create tiny pellets of an anti-cancer drug, paclitaxel, and covered them with a peptide shell. This shell gets dissolved by the enzymes released by the cancer cells, and only by them leading to the release of the drug pellets.

Anti-cancer drugs are also affecting normal cells and this is why chemotherapy has adverse effects on patients, but by coating the drug "bullets" by the peptide shell the drug can circulate in the body without getting in touch with normal cells. Only when in presence of those specific enzymes released by cancer cells the drugs is exposed and since these enzymes are statistically closed to the releasing cells the drug basically affects the cancer cells only (and particularly those having metastatic inclination). 
It has been shown that this vectoring manages to deliver 16 times as much drug to cancer cell than a normal therapy, thus increasing its efficacy and decreasing at the same time side effects.

A really nice use of nanotech!

Author - Roberto Saracco

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