JUL 19, 2019 11:21 AM PDT

Anti-cancer Drug Disguises as Fat

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS), a new drug-delivery system disguises as fat in order to outsmart tumors.

"It's like a Trojan horse," Northwestern University's Nathan Gianneschi, who led the research. "It looks like a nice little fatty acid, so the tumor's receptors see it and invite it in. Then the drug starts getting metabolized and kills the tumor cells."

Tumors seek the drug as a tasty fat that they can metabolize on—and so they invite them in. Once inside, the drug is activated and starts to immediately stop tumor growth. The engineered drug delivery system includes a long-chain fatty acid with bindings sites and then buried inside human serum albumin (HSA) that is know to carry fat molecules.

"It's like the fatty acid has a hand on both ends: one can grab onto the drug and one can grab onto proteins," Gianneschi said. "The idea is to disguise drugs as fats so that they get into cells and the body is happy to transport them around."

The unique anti-cancer drug is less toxic than current therapeutics and includes less side effects.

Northwestern University: A modified chemotherapy drug hitches a ride through the bloodstream on human serum albumin.

"Commonly used small-molecule drugs get into tumors -- and other cells," Gianneschi said. "They are toxic to tumors but also to humans. Hence, in general, these drugs have horrible side effects. Our goal is to increase the amount that gets into a tumor versus into other cells and tissues. That allows us to dose at much higher quantities without side effects, which kills the tumors faster."

Source: Northwestern University

About the Author
  • Nouran is a scientist, educator, and life-long learner with a passion for making science more communicable. When not busy in the lab isolating blood macrophages, she enjoys writing on various STEM topics.
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