Dual-wave approach clears path for cancer drug delivery

To get through a dense jungle, you'll need to clear a path. Similarly, to get past a thick network of scaffolding that often prevents drugs from reaching cancer cells, UCLA researchers have developed nanoparticles capable of clearing a path for drugs to pass through to a tumor.

The researchers at the university's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center focused on pancreatic cancer, a notoriously difficult cancer to treat. According to a UCLA report, the tumors associated with the disease are surrounded by structural elements called stroma, which block standard chemotherapy drugs from reaching the cancer cells with any great success.

So by using a dual-wave method of two different nanoparticles, injected quickly one after the other, the scientists cleared a path for the drugs to access the cells. The first wave of nanoparticles carries a signaling pathway inhibitor that removes these stroma "gates," exposing the cells, and the second wave carries the cancer drug, which then has free reign within the tumor.

In mice, tumors under the skin shrunk significantly when treated with the two-wave method, as opposed to with chemotherapy alone. 

"This two-wave nanotherapy is an existing example of how we seek to improve the delivery of chemotherapy drugs to their intended targets using nanotechnology to provide an engineered approach," UCLA's Andre Nel said in a statement. "It shows how the physical and chemical principles of nanotechnology can be integrated with the biological sciences to help cancer patients by increasing the effectiveness of chemotherapy while also reducing side effects and toxicity."

The U.S. Public Health Service and the National Cancer Institute funded the study.

- here's the UCLA report