Chemotherapy is known for taking a drastic toll on the body, with symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, exhaustion and a lowered immune system being just a few of the side effects, yet it is currently the most effective and powerful method of treating cancer.
Chemotherapy works by destroying cancer cells in the body. Unfortunately, it manages to destroy many healthy cells too, at a point when a cancer patient needs the most strength to fight the disease.
Scientists at Tel Aviv University (TAU) in Israel have devised a new delivery method to directly target cancer cells, whilst leaving the healthy cells untouched.
Dr. Dan Peer from the Department of Cell Research and Immunology and the Center for Nano Science and Nano Technology, alongside Professor Rimona Margalit from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, believe that this could be the future for delivering chemotherapy resulting in safer treatment and fewer side effects.
Their findings were recently published in the journal Biomaterials.
Using a nano-sized vessel to deliver the chemotherapy it contains minuscule particles of the chemotherapy drugs. When this vehicle makes contact with a cancerous cell the chemotherapy is released directly into that cell.
“The vehicle is similar to a cluster bomb,” explained Peer. “When the nano-vehicle interacts with the receptors on the cancerous cells, the receptor undergoes a structural change and the chemotherapy payload is released directly in the cell."
The reason why it works is thanks to a molecule that is used to coat the nano-vehicle. It uses a sugar that is recognized by the receptors in many types of cancers, but will leave the healthy cells intact. This allows for a very specific attack on cancer cells. Peer and Margalit explained that this technique could be used on a range of cancers, including lung, blood, colon, breast ovarian, pancreatic and some brain cancers.
The nano-vehicle that delivers the chemotherapy is itself is made up of organic material which breaks down in the body after it has delivered the treatment.