Study shows silicon drug carriers degrade faster at a tumor site

Diagram showing the degradation of silicon drug carriers over time--Courtesy of ATS

A new study from American and Israeli researchers has shown that nanostructures used to deliver cancer drugs act differently within the local area of a tumor than they do in healthy cells, a finding that could change the way these nanomaterials are made and how they target their drug release.

The team, led by Ester Segal of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology with members from MIT, has used silicon nanocarriers to carry and release chemotherapy drugs for several years now, according to an American Technion Society release. The porous silicon containers come equipped with many small holes that allow them to hold drugs like a sponge--when the silicon carrier breaks down, the drugs are free to act upon the tumor.

In the study, the researchers found that the silicon material degraded faster in the tumor microenvironment in vivo as compared to a slower degradation in in vitro studies. Learning the specifics of these differences, the scientists say, could help create drug delivery vehicles with predictable outcomes in cancer cases.

"We have shown for the first time that biomaterials in general, and nanostructured porous silicon in particular, behave differently when they are injected (or implanted) at the tumor microenvironment," Segal said in a statement.

Segal and her team are now looking more specifically at how certain microenvironments in the tumor affects the material's behavior in vivo.

- here's the American Technion Society's release

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