APR 04, 2016 06:21 AM PDT

Dual-Action Nanoparticles Report Cancer Cell Death in Real Time

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham
How do doctors and cancer patients know if their chemotherapy or radiation treatments are working to kill the tumor? Quite often, it is a tense process of wait-and-see. But a new technique could allow doctors to monitor cancer death in real time – an astonishing feat compared to the weeks and months of waiting for conventional treatments.
 
Nanoparticles target cancer cells and report back cell death

 Researchers at the Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) developed a method of tagging cancer cells as they die. This approach reportedly allows doctors to know the response of anticancer therapies within mere eight hours post treatments. And the technique holds promise for other chemotherapies and immunotherapies often used in cancer treatments. 

Their innovation rests on dual-action nanoparticles that deliver the drugs and report back the efficacy of the drugs in real time. The research team, led by Shiladitya Sengupta, leveraged the knowledge that specific caspase proteins are released when cells die. Thus, the nanoparticles has a ‘reporter element’ that glows green when they detect the presence of caspases after tumor cell deaths. The green fluorescent signals allow doctors to visualize treatment efficacy within hours after treatment and determine whether a tumor is resistant or susceptible to the drug.
 
"Using this approach, the cells light up the moment a cancer drug starts working. We can determine if a cancer therapy is effective within hours of treatment," said co-senior author Shiladitya Sengupta. "Our long-term goal is to find a way to monitor outcomes very early so that we don't give a chemotherapy drug to patients who are not responding to it."
 
To test the reporter system, the researchers filled the nanoparticles with paclitaxel, a common anticancer drug, in a pre-clinical model of prostate cancer. In parallel, they tested an immunotherapy agent against melanoma. Prostate tumors sensitive to paclitaxel had about 400 percent more fluorescent signals, as compared to paclitaxel-resistant tumors. Similarly, fluorescent signals were also significantly enhanced in drug-sensitive melanomas.
 
The experiments demonstrate that the dual-action nanoparticles can inform clinicians on the sensitivity state of tumors, thus allowing doctors to modify treatment plans accordingly sooner rather than later. According to the team, this is the first time that the anticancer actions of the nanoparticles have been captured in real time, in live organisms.
 
"We've demonstrated that this technique can help us directly visualize and measure the responsiveness of tumors to both types of drugs," said co-senior author Ashish Kulkarni. "Current techniques, which rely on measurements of the size or metabolic state of the tumor, are sometimes unable to detect the effectiveness of an immunotherapeutic agent as the volume of the tumor may actually increase as immune cells begin to flood in to attack the tumor. Reporter nanoparticles, however, can give us an accurate read out of whether or not cancer cells are dying."

Additional source: BWH press release
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
JUN 27, 2018
Infographics
JUN 27, 2018
The Role of Biomarkers In Modern Medicine
A biomarker (short for biological marker) is a measurable indicator of some biological state or condition. The biomarker can be measured objectively and consistently. Biomarkers play signific...
JUL 04, 2018
Drug Discovery
JUL 04, 2018
Identifying New Drug Targets in Therapy-Resistant Cancers
Recent research published in the Nature Partner journal Systems Biology and Applications examines how genome-wide data used in collaboration with systems b...
JUL 10, 2018
Cancer
JUL 10, 2018
Risk Allele Variant SNP at 14q11.2 Linked to ALL
Researchers utilized genome-wide association studies to identify a variant SNP within a gene at 14q11.2 which is linked to ALL....
AUG 21, 2018
Cancer
AUG 21, 2018
Theranostics.....Heard of it?
Theranostics is an emerging field that combines therapeutics and diagnostic capabilities into one opportunity for treatment of diseases, especially cancer....
SEP 12, 2018
Microbiology
SEP 12, 2018
Researchers ID a Link Between a Bacterial Strain and Gastric Cancer
Helicobacter pylori is a bacterium that causes stomach ulcers, and can lead to gastric cancer....
OCT 07, 2018
Videos
OCT 07, 2018
Certain Foods Encourage a Gut Microbe, and Colon Cancer
Researchers reveal more evidence that refined grains and sugars and processed meats are bad for colon health....
Loading Comments...