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Syracuse team use gold nanoparticles to deliver DOX anti-cancer drug

By Alexandria Pesic , 24-Mar-2011

Scientists from the University of Syracuse’s chemistry department have created a new drug delivery system which they claim will improve the efficacy of cancer-killing drugs.

The system uses gold nanoparticles with attached DNA designed to bind to anti-cancer drug, Doxorubin, or DOX. The team from the US university says the delivery system could significantly improve the results of cancer chemotherapy.

Speaking to In-PharmaTechnologist, team member and professor of bioinorganic chemistry at Syracuse University, James Dabrowiak, said he was excited by the possibilities offered by the new technique.

“Since the system carries a large number of drug molecules and it can potentially release them within or in the vicinity of cancer cells, it can produce considerable lethality in a specific region,” he said.

“Presently most drugs are delivered systemically via the blood and tumour cell death depends on individual drug molecules entering and killing the cell. Since there’s no evidence that the entire drug-loaded nanoparticle can likely enter the cell, it would bring a high payload of toxic drug into the cell, thereby increasing the probability that it will die.”

Billionths of a meter

With an average diameter of 15.5 nanometers, or a few billionths of a meter, a single nanoparticle presents more than 100 DOX sites. Multiplied by millions and it’s clear the particles could mount a massive and deadly assault on a tumour.

Dabrowiak claims this method of delivery also has the potential to significantly reduce the side effects commonly associated with chemotherapy.

“Anytime one can direct the drug (toxin) specifically to the cancer cell and not rely on the cell to simply absorb the drug from blood passing in the vicinity of the cell, it is an important advance,” he said, “This minimizes the side effects, “collateral damage”, that is present with the way most anti-cancer drugs are usually administered in chemotherapy.”

New clinical tools

Team member and assistant professor of chemistry at Syracuse, Mathew Maye, said though initial results were positive, there remained much left to do.

“We still have work to do,” he said, “but this advance opens a promising new field of investigation that can lead to important new clinical tools.”

The team claims a key advantage of the new system is that DOX is already approved by the FDA, but other drugs may also be deployed using the same technique simply by engineering the DNA to bind to a different molecule.

Dabrowiak told In-PharmaTechnologist: “We are studying other gold nanoparticle-DNA carriers for the delivery of other clinically approved anti-cancer drugs. We are also studying ways to release the drug molecules from the delivery system using external signals such as exposing the particle to certain types of light.”

The team at Syracuse claim prior discoveries demonstrate that nano-delivery systems are within reach and, when perfected, could permanently change the way cancer drugs work.

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