A new type of nanoparticle developed at MIT is capable of targeting any type of tumor and can carry any type of drug. And unlike other drug-carrying nanoparticles, this one does not bind specifically to proteins found on cancer cells. Instead, it seeks out the acidic environment that characterizes all cancer cells.
Paula Hammond, a member of the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, describes the particles in an article published in the journal ACS Nano. The particle is wrapped up in a protective polymer that keeps it safe in the bloodstream. When it enters the acidic area near a tumor, this layer falls off and, like a peeled onion, another layer is exposed to penetrate tumor cells.
Jinming Gao, professor of oncology and pharmacology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, said in an MIT news story that this layer-by-layer method is "quite clever."
"It is a nice proof of concept," says Gao. "This could serve as a general strategy to target acidic tumor microenvironment for improved drug delivery."
In this study, researchers reported the particles can survive in the bloodstream of mice for up to 24 hours and enter tumor cells. The next step is to test drug delivery in animals and work on nanoparticles that can carry many drugs at once.