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Nanotech Solution Helps Enable Cancer Drug Delivery

Andrew Wang (University of North Carolina)

Andrew Wang (University of North Carolina)

Researchers at University of North Carolina medical school in Chapel Hill have found a process for delivering the cancer drug wortmannin using nanoscale particles, a drug that had not been deliverable using traditional methods. Their findings appear online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (paid subscription required).

Wortmannin had been considered a highly promising cancer drug, but while it seemed to have benefits in the lab, the drug did not translate into clinical results because of high toxicity, low stability, and low solubility in blood. The team led by North Carolina researcher Andrew Wang (pictured left), with colleagues from UNC and Harvard’s Radiation Oncology Program, tested wortmannin delivered in the form of nanoscale particles; 1 nanometer = 1 billionth of a meter.

Wang’s team tested wortmannin in nanoparticles, as a proof of concept, on three cancer cell lines in the lab, both on stand-alone cultures and in mice. “We found that the nanoparticle formulation of wortmannin decreased toxicity and increased stability, solubility, and effectiveness,” says Wang. The drug in nanoparticle form also improved the effectiveness of radiation therapy and gave indications of greater effectiveness than some commonly used chemotherapies.

“Most research has focused on established drugs. However, there is a large number of these ‘forgotten’ drugs that can be revived and re-evaluated using nanoparticle drug delivery,” notes Wang.  “These drugs can provide new targets and offer new strategies that previously didn’t exist.”

The North Carolina team plans to further develop wortmannin as nanoparticles, as well as look into developing nanoparticle formulation of other abandoned drugs.

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