Customized Nanoparticles May Improve Cancer Patient Responses

Drug-carrying synthetic polymer could deliver treatment to lung cancer cells without harming healthy cells.

Chemotherapy is a catch-22, attacking both cancer cells and healthy cells simultaneously. In a new study, however, researchers successfully developed drug-carrying synthetic nanoparticles that can distinguish lung cancer cells from healthy cells.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest these selective nanoparticles could decrease cancer treatment side effects by reducing drug accumulation in normal cells.

“The discovery that nanoparticles can be selective to certain cells based only on their physical and chemical properties has profound implications for nanoparticle-based therapies because cell type specificity of drug carriers could alter patient outcomes in the clinic,” said corresponding study author Daniel Siegwart. “At the same time, a deeper understanding of nanoparticle interactions in the body opens the door to predict patient responses to existing liposome and nanoparticle therapies, and offers the potential to create future drug carriers customized according to individual genetic profiles.”

During the study, researchers tested hundreds of polymers, and were surprised to find that cells could respond differently to the same drug carrier, even when the cancerous and normal cells came from the lungs of the same patients.

“These functional polyester nanoparticles provide an exciting alternative approach for selective drug delivery to tumor cells that may improve efficacy and reduce adverse side effects of cancer therapies,” said study co-author John Minna.

New chemical reactions were developed by researchers to create a diverse library of polymers that could deliver nucleic acid drugs, while possessing enough structural diversity to discover cancer cell-specific nanoparticles.

“The ability to specifically target cancer cells using nanoparticles could alter how we administer drugs to patients,” Minna said. “It is already possible to use genetic sequencing to customize drug regimens for each patient. We may also be able to customize the drug carrier to predictably improve patient responses.”

These tiny sphered nanoparticles could improve the solubility and delivery of drugs to cells. In the current study, researchers developed short interfering RNA (siRNA)-based drugs that disrupt the functioning and growth of tumor cells, through the elimination of the proteins the cells need to survive.

Researchers found that the cancer selective nanoparticles stayed inside of the tumors in the mice for more than 1 week, while the nonselective control nanoparticles were cleared within a few hours, resulting in the improvement of siRNA-mediated cancer cell death and a significant suppression of tumor growth.