Targeting Breast Cancer With A ‘Trojan Horse’

By encasing chemotherapy drugs in nanocapsules coated in the membranes of red blood cells, researchers have reduced the toxicity of the treatment in mice.

AsianScientist (Mar. 30, 2018) – In a study published in Advanced Functional Materials, a research group in China has described how nanocapsules and red blood cells can be used to improve chemotherapy.

Breast cancer is one of the most common causes of death for women. About 90 percent of breast cancer patients die of tumor metastasis, where tumor cells spread throughout the body. Chemotherapy is still the main treatment for metastatic breast cancer, but it is unable to effectively differentiate cancer cells from normal cells. This leads to inefficient therapy and severe systemic side effects.

In the present study, a team of scientists led by Professor Li Yaping at Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) have created nanocapsules with selective toxicity towards cancer cells and good compatibility in the body. The researchers linked a chemotherapeutic agent, docetaxel (DTX), with heparan sulfate (HS) to produce HS-DTX, which formed micelles automatically in water.

The researchers then coated the HS-DTX micelles with red blood cell membranes isolated from the blood of mice, producing rHS-DTX nanocapsules. Thus disguised as red blood cells, the rHS-DTX nanocapsules escaped clearance by the immune system in a mouse model of metastatic breast cancer, accumulating in the primary tumor and metastases instead.

The concentration of an enzyme that breaks down HS is much higher in tumor cells than in normal cells. Thus, after rHS-DTX entered the tumor cells, the HS coating was degraded and DTX was released. The researchers demonstrated that rHS-DTX significantly inhibited the growth and metastasis of tumors without inducing severe toxicity in the major organs and blood.

The article can be found at: Lang et al. (2018) Tumor Cells‐Selective Bionic Nanodevice Exploiting Heparanase Combats Metastatic Breast Cancer.


Source: Chinese Academy of Sciences; Photo: Shutterstock.
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