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Nanoparticles Improve Delivery of Chemotherapy Drugs

Chemotherapy (National Institutes of Health)

(National Institutes of Health)

An engineering professor at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois has discovered a process for combining nanoscale carbon particles to chemotherapy drugs to improve the drugs’ effectiveness on tumors. Dean Ho and his colleagues published their findings in this week’s issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine (paid subscription required).

In studies of liver and breast cancer in mice, Ho and a team of scientists, engineers, and clinicians found that a normally lethal amount of a chemotherapy drug when bound to nanodiamonds, as the particles are called, significantly reduces the size of tumors. Survival rates also increased and no toxic effects on tissues and organs were observed.

Northwestern says this study is the first work to demonstrate the significance and translational potential of nanodiamonds in the treatment of chemotherapy-resistant cancers. Nanodiamonds are carbon-based materials approximately 2 to 8 nanometers in diameter; 1 nanometer equals 1 billionth of a meter.

Each nanodiamond’s surface allows a wide spectrum of compounds to be attached to it, including chemotherapy agents. The researchers took these nanodiamonds and reversibly bound the common chemotherapy drug doxorubicin to them using a synthesis process, which enhances sustained drug release.

Ho and his colleagues studied mouse models with liver and breast cancers. In these resistant cancers, drugs are able to get inside the tumors but are kicked right back out because of an innate response in the liver and breast to expel these drugs.

They treated one group of animals with the doxorubicin-nanodiamond complexes and another group with the drug alone. In those treated with the nanodiamond complexes, the chemotherapeutic remained in circulation longer — up to 10 times longer — than those treated with the drug alone.

The drug itself was retained inside both types of tumors for a significantly longer period of time. Such a high retention rate means a smaller amount of the very toxic drug would need to be administered, thus reducing potential side effects.

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