Tricking Tumors With Targeted Nanocarriers

Using nanoparticles that mimic the cancer cell membrane, scientists have found a way to deliver oxygen specifically to tumors and thereby reduce chemoresistance.

AsianScientist (Sep. 28, 2017) – Scientists in China have used nanocarriers camouflaged as cancer cell membranes to deliver oxygen directly to tumors, thereby overcoming chemoresistance and enhancing the effectiveness of chemotherapy. Their findings have been published in Advanced Functional Materials.

Malignant tumors threaten human health and are often difficult to treat. A wealth of clinical evidence indicates that hypoxia is a common feature of solid tumors, which leads to drug resistance and poor chemotherapy outcomes.

Several studies have suggested that by targeting tumor hypoxia, chemotherapy outcomes in patients can be improved. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a clinically approved treatment option, but it is associated with severe side effects caused by oxygen toxicity. Therefore, tumor-specific oxygen delivery could be a viable way to treat chemoresistant tumors.

In this study, a team of researchers led by Professor Cai Lintao of the Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences developed a cancer cell membrane-biomimetic oxygen nanocarrier to overcome chemoresistance induced by tumor hypoxia.

Hemoglobin, an oxygen-carrying protein, was co-encapsulated with doxorubicin, a chemotherapy drug, in cancer cell membrane phospholipids conjugated with polyethylene glycol, a biocompatible polymer. The researchers called these nanocarriers homologous targeting nanoparticles (DHCNPs).

The DHCNPs retained cancer cell adhesion molecules on their surface, while the hemoglobin within them conferred oxygen-carrying capacity. These unique properties of the DHCNPs allowed oxygen and chemotherapy drugs to be specifically targeted to cancer cells.

The researchers showed that the nanocarriers achieved higher tumor specificity and lower toxicity. Moreover, the export of drugs by tumor cells was significantly reduced due to the suppression of hypoxia-inducible factor-1α, multidrug resistance gene-1 and P-glycoprotein expression.

The researchers are optimistic that this design of oxygen nanocarriers will pave the way for targeted oxygen interference therapy and open new horizons for the effective treatment of solid tumors.

The article can be found at: Tian et al. (2017) Cancer Cell Membrane-Biomimetic Oxygen Nanocarrier for Breaking Hypoxia-Induced Chemoresistance.


Source: Chinese Academy of Sciences; Photo: Shutterstock.
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