Nanosyringe could help treat brain tumors

Patients with malignant brain tumors generally face low survival rates and taxing treatment options including surgery and chemotherapy. But that could change thanks to a discovery by researchers at Rice University and the Methodist Neurological Institute.

The team has developed a 20-nanometer syringe, capable of delivering combination chemotherapy drugs directly into cancer cells, selectively killing malignant tissues. The tiny syringe--about 2 million times smaller than a coffee mug--is loaded with hydrophilic carbon clusters, nanovectors that seek out the membranes of cancer cells. Once they latch on, they release a combination of three chemo treatments that kill the cells of glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common and malignant variety of brain tumor.

In study results, to be published in the journal ​ACS Nano later this month, the researchers found their method to be successful and more practical than available treatments, presenting no apparent toxicity to non-cancerous brain cells. "Without our nano-delivery system, we know that current drug delivery would be highly toxic to patients if we tried to deliver all three of these drugs at once," said David Baskin, a neurosurgeon at Methodist, in a release on the findings. "But delivered in combination using these nano-syringes, our research demonstrated extreme lethality, with at least a three-fold increase in the number of dead cancer cells following treatment." 

With these positive results, the researchers believe there could be applications for other tumors, including those in breast, head and neck cancers. The team will next try the method out on human tumors grown in immunocompromised mice models.

(Image courtesy of the Methodist Neurological Institute)

- check out the release