Organic nanoparticles offer 'complete package' against cancer: delivery and imaging

Nanoparticles come in many shapes and sizes, each specifically designed to play a precise role in cancer treatment. And now, researchers from UC Davis have created nanotechnology with the ability to perform multiple tasks and the ultimate goal of destroying tumors.

The organic vehicle, which is nontoxic and biocompatible in the human body, combines imaging with a drug-carrying capacity. In the past, particles that can do both of these at the same time have been inorganic and not as safe. And particles that are safe have not before been able to accomplish as many tasks.

The UC Davis researchers created the nanoparticles from a combination of the organic compounds-- porphyrin and the naturally produced cholic acid. And by adding the amino acid cysteine, the scientists could control the release of drugs with a focus on tumors. The particles respond to light or other agents to release their payloads, according to the university.

And because they accumulate in tumors and there enhance the tumor contrast for an MRI procedure, the nanoparticles have great imaging potential, as well.

"These particles can combine imaging and therapeutics," lead author Yuanpei Li said in a statement. "...As a contrast agent, they make tumors easier to see on MRI and other scans. We can also use them as vehicles to deliver chemotherapy directly to tumors; apply light to make the nanoparticles release singlet oxygen (photosynamic therapy) or use a laser to heat them (photothermal therapy)--all proven ways to destroy tumors."

The team studied the nanoparticles both in vitro and in vivo. With funding from the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, the Department of Defense, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, the Veterans Administration and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the UC Davis scientists are looking to pursue additional preclinical studies before moving on to human trials.

"This is the first nanoparticle to perform so many different jobs," Li said. "From delivering chemo, photodynamic and photothermal therapies to enhancing diagnostic imaging, it's the complete package."

- here's the UC Davis report