Notre Dame's nanoparticles effective against drug-resistant cancer

Notre Dame researchers have found an inventive method of getting chemo into cells of multiple myeloma, a particularly vexing bone marrow cancer that can develop a resistance to treatment.

Here's how it works: The nanoparticles are loaded with cancer-killing doxorubicin and coated with tumor-seeking peptides to guide them. Myeloma cells come equipped with a receptor that allows them to bind to marrow tissue, but Notre Dame's novel peptide counteracts that, tricking the cancer into unbinding from marrow and absorbing the nanoparticles. Once inside the myeloma, the particles break apart and deliver their doxorubicin payloads, killing tumor cells from within.

As the scientists reported in Blood Cancer Journal, lab tests revealed the method to be effective in killing cancer cells and, perhaps just as important, sparing healthy tissues in the process. Doxorubicin is a potent chemotherapeutic, and while it is effective against cancer, it can just as easily destroy nearby tissues if it's sloppily delivered.

"Our research on mice shows that the nanoparticle formulation reduces the toxic effect doxorubicin has on other tissues, such as the kidneys and liver," researcher Tanyel Kiziltepe said in a release. "We believe further research will show that the heart is less affected as well. This could greatly reduce the harmful side-effects of this chemotherapy."

Notre Dame's researchers believe that, with more research, their peptide-led nanoparticles could be effective in combating other drug-resistant cancers, too. Before moving on to human trials, however, they plan to perfect the particles' design and find the optimum amount of drug to include in each. 

- read the release
- check out the journal article