UNC team delivers cancer drugs wrapped in exosomes to cut doses

UNC's Elena Batrakova

Researchers at the University of North Carolina have developed a method of drug delivery using exosomes to protect cancer drugs in the body before they reach their target, effectively cutting the necessary dose.

The scientists wrapped the common chemotherapy paclitaxel in small, spherical exosomes taken from white blood cells. Because these are natural vehicles within a healthy body, the healthy cells don't recognize them as containing a foreign drug. This allows the treatment to pass by the healthy cells intact without harming those cells and then release the drug on contact with the tumor.

In mice, they found that the exosomes allowed for a dose 50 times smaller than what is commonly used in today's formulations.

"Exosomes are engineered by nature to be the perfect delivery vehicles," lead author Elena Batrakova said in a statement. "By using exosomes from white blood cells, we wrap the medicine in an invisibility cloak that hides it from the immune system. We don't know exactly how they do it, but the exosomes swarm the cancer cells, completely bypassing any drug resistance they may have and delivering their payload."

The researchers published their findings in the journal Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine. They have found that the exosomes also work as diagnostic tools and can be used in areas of medicine outside of cancer, such as Parkinson's disease, according to the university.

- here's the UNC report
- read the journal abstract