3-D imaging maps out delivery of cancer drugs for better treatment

Directing cancer drugs to their target is a mainstay of the drug-delivery industry, and researchers in Australia and the U.K. may have found a way to enhance imaging of drugs' release at tumor sites, helping to target them where they lie.

The new study, published in the journal Cancer Research by scientists at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Australia and the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research in Glasgow, shows that with a three-dimensional approach to imaging tumors, they could see where and how the cancer spread. By seeing this in such detail, they could determine the precise method necessary to deliver drugs there, according to the Garvan Institute.

They studied the signaling protein Src, which drives the spread of pancreatic cancer, and the drug dasatinib, a small-molecule inhibitor currently in Phase II trials. With the 3-D imaging technology fluorescence resonance energy transfer, they could visually access the points of drug delivery and find where the dasatinib would be most needed without damaging the pancreas.

"Until now, we have been limited to studying tumor signaling in two dimensions and lacked a dynamic way of reporting on drug targeting in live tumor tissue," said lead author Paul Timpson from Garvan in a statement. "Nanotechnology opens up a portal into living tissue that allows us to watch cancers spreading, and to determine what parts of a tumor we should be targeting with drugs."

"These are very exciting discoveries," said Kurt Anderson from Beatson. "[W]e now have spatial and temporal information about cancer behavior that we've never had before, as well as the nanotechnology to monitor and improve drug delivery in hard-to-reach tumor regions."

- here's the release from the Garvan Institute

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