Nanodiamonds deliver brain cancer drugs safely, UCLA team shows

Using a similar method they once used to treat breast cancer, researchers at UCLA are employing nanodiamonds to deliver cancer drugs to the brain, providing treatment for the particularly aggressive glioblastoma.

The UCLA team, with scientists from Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, are using a soccer-ball-shaped structure of nanodiamonds to deliver the common chemotherapy agent doxorubicin directly into the tumor via injection. The nanodiamonds bind to the drug and prevent its release until it reaches the tumor, according to the university, protecting healthy cells and keeping harmful side effects to a minimum.

What triggers the release inside the brain tumor are proteins found predominantly in cancer cells and less so in surrounding ones. The team tested this "convection enhanced delivery" in rodent models, in which they found the doxorubicin levels endured "far beyond" that of the drug alone. With nanodiamond delivery, the drug stayed in the tumor for a longer time, increased programmed cell death and decreased the cancer cells' viability. And despite these cancer-killing tendencies, the nanodiamonds limited the amount of doxorubicin that spread to surrounding cells, the team reported in its study in the journal Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine.

"Nanomaterials are promising vehicles for treating different types of cancer," said researcher and professor Dean Ho, who is co-director of the Weintraub Center for Reconstructive Biotechnology at the UCLA School of Dentistry. "We're looking for the drugs and situations where nanotechnology actually helps chemotherapy function better, making it easier on the patient and harder on the cancer."

The researchers plan to expand their research using nanodiamonds to deliver other brain cancer drugs besides doxorubicin. The National Science Foundation and the National Cancer Institute, among others, supported the study.

- here's the UCLA report