Nanoparticles used to take on late-stage liver cancer
Treating late-stage liver cancer can beextremely difficult, with drugs that prove effective in healthyorgans causing high levels of toxicity when introduced to cirrhoticlivers. A newly-developed nanoparticle delivery system could improvethe situation, with early tests showing it to be effective as a non-toxictreatment in experiments with laboratory mice.
Primary liver cancer causes more deathsacross the globe than any other cancer. According to the Centers forDisease Control and Prevention, it's responsible for some 28,000deaths each year in the US alone, and the five-year survival rate isjust 17 percent. The number of case occurrences has also increased over the lastfew decades, making the search for effective treatments even morepressing.
A research team from the University ofTexas Southwestern Medical Center focused on using short nucleicacids called microRNAs (miRNAs) to tackle the cancer. While miRNAsare a good candidate treatment, acting as natural tumor suppressors,attempts to get them into target cells have so far been unsuccessful,with not a single carrier providing efficient delivery withoutcausing amplified toxicity.
With the clear goal of developing anon-toxic carrier, the researchers set about synthesizing 1,500different types of nanoparticle, trying out varying chemicals,physical properties and sizes. Eventually, the team was able toidentify a dendrimer nanoparticle carrier that it believedwould be able to transport the miRNAs to late-stage tumor sights withlow toxicity levels.
The new carrier was successfully testedon laboratory mice with an aggressive form of liver cancer, withthe treatment inhibiting tumor growth and significantly extendingsurvival. While clinical trials will be necessary to confirm that themethod is effective, the study is an important step towards a bettertreatment option for late stage liver cancer.
The researchers published theirfindings in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Source: UT Southwestern