AsianScientist (Feb. 14, 2019) – A research group in Singapore has found that nanoparticles can cause blood vessels to become ‘leaky,’ which could help cancer spread in the body. Their findings are published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
Researchers have found ways to synthesize nanoparticles with interesting and customizable properties for a variety of applications, including food additives, consumer products and medicine. While nanoparticles may have tremendous potential for improving the packaging and delivery of molecules and even drugs, their impact on physiology and health is still not well understood.
In the present study, scientists led by Associate Professor David Leong of the National University of Singapore have found that nanoparticles commonly used in cancer nanomedicine may aggravate disease. They used breast cancer as a model and found that nanoparticles made from gold, titanium dioxide, silver and silicon dioxide caused the gap between blood vessel cells to widen, making way for cancer cells to slip through.
They called the phenomenon ‘nanomaterials induced endothelial leakiness’ (NanoEL) and demonstrated that the increased leakiness of blood vessels accelerated the movement of cancer cells from the primary tumor and allowed circulating cancer cells to escape from blood circulation, leading to more rapid establishment of a bigger secondary tumor site. The findings suggest that nanoparticles may initiate new secondary sites previously not accessible to cancer cells.
“For a cancer patient, the direct implication of our findings is that long term, pre-existing exposure to nanoparticles—for instance, through everyday products or environmental pollutants—may accelerate cancer progression, even when nanomedicine is not administered,” Leong explained.
He added that the interactions between these tiny nanomaterials and the biological systems in the body need to be taken into consideration during the design and development of cancer nanomedicine.
Fortunately, the situation is not all doom and gloom, said the researchers who are harnessing the NanoEL effect to design more effective therapies. For example, nanoparticles that induce NanoEL can potentially be used to increase blood vessel leakiness and in turn promote the access of drugs or repairing stem cells to diseased tissues that may not be originally accessible to therapy.
“We are currently exploring the use of the NanoEL effect to destroy immature tumors when there are little or no leaky blood vessels to deliver cancer drugs to the tumors. We need to tread this fine line very carefully and optimize the duration at which the tumors are exposed to the nanoparticles. This could allow scientists to target the source of the disease, before the cancer cells spread and become a highly refractory problem,” said Leong.
Source: National University of Singapore; Photo: Shutterstock.
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