Cancer treatments have improved a lot over the past few years and they keep improving. One of the methods researchers use to treat cancer, is drugs, delivered by nanoparticles.
This method isn’t new, but new studies improve it constantly. A new study managed to target cancer cells with proliferating capabilities by engineering nanoparticles that are: nontoxic, non-immunogenic, biocompatible and biodegradable. This basically means that the nanoparticles will not cause any side effects to the patient. Previous studies, while successful had issues with strong immune responses to such particles.
This study therefore, used the same technique developed by other researchers, to overcome the issue of having an immune response to the nanoparticles. Specifically they used bovine serum albumin with hyaluronic acid on it. The bovine serum albumin created a uniform sphere shape, while the hyaluronic acid was the molecule that gave the nanoparticles their specificity. The researchers were targeting cancer stem cells, cancer cells with stem cell properties. They could target them by finding a way to bind the nanoparticles to the CD44 receptor of those cells. The hyaluronic acid is what helps the nanoparticles bind to the CD44 receptor in this case. While other stem cells have the same receptors, by administering a controlled dose to the target tissue this problem can be overcome.
In the nanoparticles, the researchers added All trans retinoic acid (ATRA). ATRA has been proven to have great anticancer properties. ATRA can signal stem cells to differentiate by regulating the transcription of genes. Basically acting as a transcription factor. However, ATRA doesn’t really bind to cancer stem cells, and is unstable on its own. This is why the nanoparticles are required in this case.
Tumour growth in mice was significantly inhibited by this approach compared to just the ATRA alone. This is important since in vivo, cancer cells with stem cell properties cause many issues in tumour growth. This approach inhibits that growth effectively and it may be used in the near future to treat patients. Of course more testing may be necessary, but such approaches show promising results and we finally have a few studies like this one indicating that “futuristic” technologies will become “mainstream” soon in medicine.
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