Researchers have developed a new nano drug candidate that kills aggressive cells in triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), one of the most aggressive and fatal forms of the disease. According to an article in the University of Arkansas publication Research Frontiers, this drug will allow clinicians to directly target breast cancer cells while avoiding the adverse effects (AEs) of chemotherapy.

“With the exception of skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in American women,” said research leader Hassan Beyzavi, PhD, in an interview with Research Frontiers. “As we know, thousands of women die from breast cancer each year. Patients with triple negative cells are especially vulnerable, because of the toxic side effects of the only approved treatment for this type of cancer.”

According to the article, the American Cancer Society estimated 268,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 41,760 deaths in 2019. There are more than 3.1 million breast cancer survivors currently in the United States. Despite these intimidating statistics, breast cancer death rates in women over 50 years of age have decreased since 2007, believed to be the result of earlier detection and better treatments.

Cytotoxic chemotherapy is the only approved treatment for TNBC. According to the article, more than 80% of women with this form of cancer are treated with chemotherapy regimens including anthracyclines, which can cause cardiotoxicity among other serious AEs.

The investigators linked a new class of nanomaterials, called metal-organic frameworks, with the ligands of an already-developed photodynamic therapy drug, thereby creating a nano-porous material that targets and kills tumor cells while avoiding toxicity for normal cells.

Targeted photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a noninvasive treatment approach that relies on a photosensitizer that generates toxic reactive oxygen species, which kill cancer cells, according to the study. PDT has garnered increasing attention in recent years because of its ability to treat tumors without surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation.

In addition to its potential uses in cancer treatment, this novel drug delivery system could be used with magnetic resonance imaging or fluorescence imaging, which can track the drug in the body and monitor the progress of treatment, according to the study authors.

McGowan, M. New Nano Drug Candidate Kills Aggressive Breast Cancer Cells. University of Arkansas Research Frontiers; July 17, 2020. Accessed July 21, 2020.