Researchers give it to prostate cancer with both barrels

In the world of cancer treatment, many is often better than one. That is, combination drug therapy is more effective than single drugs. Researchers at MIT and Brigham and Women's Hospital have developed a nanoparticle that can attack prostate cancer cells with both barrels--or even more--by delivering precise doses of two or more drugs.

The two-fisted attack comes in the form of cisplatin and docetaxel, two drugs commonly used to treat many different types of cancer. In a study appearing online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers built their their nanoparticles employing a strategy that allowed them to incorporate drugs with very different physical properties.

Under the old way, the two drugs could not be delivered together since cisplatin is hydrophilic (attracts water) and docetaxel is is hydrophobic (repels water). The researchers developed what they’re calling "drug-polymer blending," in which drug molecules are hung like pendants from individual units of the polymer, before the units assemble into a nanoparticle. That allows the researchers to precisely control the ratio of drugs loaded into the particle and control the rate of release once it enters a tumor cell.

"With the old way, you can only do it if the two drugs are physically and chemically similar," Omid Farokhzad, director of the Laboratory of Nanomedicine and Biomaterials at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a senior author of the paper, tells MIT News. "With this way, you can put in drugs that are relatively different from each other."

The researchers have filed a patent and are now testing it on animals.

- read the article in MIT News
- learn more about Farokhzad’s research here