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Nanodiamonds Improve Chemotherapy Targeting for Brain Tumors

Dean Ho

Dean Ho (University of California in Los angeles)

Researchers at University of California in Los Angeles, with colleagues from Northwestern University and Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, developed a more precise delivery method for chemotherapy drugs using nanoscale diamonds to treat brain tumors. The team that included participants from the lab of UCLA biomedical engineering professor Dean Ho published their findings online in an advance issue of the journal Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine (paid subscription required).

The research team investigated better ways of delivering drugs to treat glioblastoma, one of the more common and aggressive forms of brain cancer. Glioblastoma tumors occur in astrocytes, the supportive tissue of of the brain. Because the cells reproduce quickly and are supported by a large network of blood vessels, the tumors are very malignant.

In addition, say the researchers, glioblastoma tumors are often difficult to treat, because the chemotherapy drugs on their own often find it difficult to cross the system of blood vessels protecting the brain known as the blood-brain barrier.  Chemotherapy drugs also do not remain concentrated in the brain tumor for a long enough period to be effective.

Nanoscale diamonds, where 1 nanometer equals 1 billionth of a meter, already have shown the ability to prevent the ejection of drug molecules from cancer cells. In this study, the researchers hypothesized that the drug doxorubicin, a chemotherapy drug used on a range of cancers, when enhanced with nanodiamonds, could more efficiently treat brain tumors. Exposing the cancer cells to longer episodes of doxorubicin, they hypothesized, would also reduce the effects of the drug on the non-cancerous surrounding tissue.

The team bound the doxorubicin to the nanodiamonds, in a compound called ND-DOX, which they injected directly into brains of the test rodents. The researchers found the rodents retained ND-DOX treatments longer in their tumors than the treatments of doxorubicin alone, leading to increased cancer cell death and reduced viability of brain cancer cell lines.

Ho and colleagues also found ND-DOX delivery reduced the amount of the amount of doxorubicin that spread outside the tumor, which reduced side effects of the treatments. The results showed rodents with ND-DOX treatments survived longer than those given unmodified doxorubicin.

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