JAN 19, 2016 11:43 PM PST

Cloaked ‘bubbles' kill cancer with 50X less chemo

Packaging a cancer drug in bubble containers derived from a patient’s own immune system makes it much more effective. Doing so protects the drug paclitaxel from being destroyed by the body’s own defenses, which means the entire payload is delivered to the tumor.

“That means we can use 50 times less of the drug and still get the same results,” says Elena Batrakova, associate professor in the Eshelman School of Pharmacy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
 
"That means we can use 50 times less of the drug and still get the same results," says Elena Batrakova. "That matters because we may eventually be able to treat patients with smaller and more accurate doses of powerful chemotherapy drugs resulting in more effective treatment with fewer and milder side effects."

“That matters because we may eventually be able to treat patients with smaller and more accurate doses of powerful chemotherapy drugs resulting in more effective treatment with fewer and milder side effects.”

The work is based on exosomes, which are tiny spheres harvested from the white blood cells that protect the body against infection. The exosomes are made of the same material as cell membranes, and the patient’s body doesn’t recognize them as foreign, which has been one of the toughest issues to overcome in the past decade with using plastics-based nanoparticles as drug-delivery systems.

“Exosomes are engineered by nature to be the perfect delivery vehicles,” says Batrakova, who has used the technique with Parkinson’s disease. “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.”

Paclitaxel is a potent drug used in the United States as a first- and second-line treatment for breast, lung, and pancreatic cancers. It can have serious and unpleasant side effects, such as hair loss, muscle and joint pain, and diarrhea, and it can put patients at greater risk of serious infection.

For the study, published in Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine, researchers extracted exosomes from mouse white blood cells and loaded them with paclitaxel. They then tested the treatment—which they call exoPXT—against multiple-drug-resistant cancer cells in petri dishes. The results showed a need for 50 times less exoPXT to achieve the same cancer-killing effect as formulations of the drug currently being used, such as Taxol.

The researchers next tested the therapy in mouse models of drug-resistant lung cancer. They loaded the exosomes with a dye in order to track their progress through the lungs and found that the exosomes were thorough in seeking out and marking cancer cells, making them a surprisingly effective diagnostic tool in addition to being a powerful therapeutic.

“Accurately mapping the extent of tumors in the lungs is one of the biggest challenges in treating lung-cancer patients,” Batrakova says. “Our results show how powerful exosomes can be as both a therapeutic and a diagnostic.”

The National Institutes of Health and the Carolina Partnership, a strategic partnership between the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy and the University Cancer Research Fund through the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, as well as the Russian Federation Ministry of Education and Science funded the work.

This article originally published on futurity.org.
About the Author
  • Futurity features the latest discoveries by scientists at top research universities in the US, UK, Canada, Europe, Asia, and Australia. The nonprofit site, which launched in 2009, is supported solely by its university partners (listed below) in an effort to share research news directly with the public.
You May Also Like
NOV 22, 2019
Cancer
NOV 22, 2019
The cancerous fear of circular extrachromosomal DNA
New research published in Nature suggests that ring-shaped extrachromosomal DNA (ecDNA) is particularly abundant in tumor cells and plays a malicious role ...
DEC 25, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
DEC 25, 2019
New Drug to Make Breast Cancer Treatment More Affordable
The US Food and Drug Administration has granted accelerated approval to new breast cancer drug, trastuzumab deruxtecan. The drug’s increasing recogni...
JAN 21, 2020
Cancer
JAN 21, 2020
A gene for leukemia triggers the growth of stem blood cells
New research from the University of Colorado Cancer Center has identified a way to make hematopoietic stem cells from a gene that causes a type of leukemia...
FEB 09, 2020
Microbiology
FEB 09, 2020
Investigating the Links Between Viruses and Cancer
The Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes (PCAWG) has brought over 1,300 scientists together to gain new insights into the genetics of cancer....
FEB 11, 2020
Cancer
FEB 11, 2020
Could we be over-diagnosing cancer?
Roughly one in every two people are estimated to receive a cancer diagnosis at some point in their lives, but are all of those diagnoses valid? New researc...
FEB 16, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
FEB 16, 2020
Growing Cells on Scaffolding as an Alternative to Animal Models
Researchers may have just made it easier for investigators to switch to an engineered model and replace their animal colonies with electrospun synthetics....
Loading Comments...