Another promising cancer treatment rolls off the line at UCSD.

Nanoparticles are the new medical wonder gadget. Journals are filled with new and interesting uses for microscopic particles of different makes and models being used for treatments of anything from cancer to radiation poisoning. The carbon nanotube seems to be the most popular delivery method for various treatments due to several factors like their ease of production and chemical inertness.

Some worry that these nanoparticles aren't safe over long periods of time, however. Nanotubes of certain lengths have been shown to produce results similar to those of a known carcinogen, asbestos. Other studies revolve around the tiny spears and their effects on the liver or kidneys.

University of California at San Diego researchers recently published work which uses nanoparticles to deliver chemical toxins to specific cancer cells in mice. This is not a very new development, DailyTech readers have read about several such endeavors in the past. However, UCSD's delivery method and drug approach are a little different.

First, the UCSD nanoparticles are not carbon nanotubes. Their nanoparticles are composed of lipid-based polymers instead. Second, instead of using various means of energy or activation on their nanoparticles, UCSD's are a more traditional search and destroy variety. The particles are programmed to seek out a specific protein marker called integrin ανβ3. Rather than relying on detonating a payload onsite, the particles deliver a widely used chemotherapy toxin called doxorubicin directly to the tumors, effectively killing tumor cells while leaving healthy cells in the area largely unaffected.

David Cheresh, Ph.D, the Moores UCSD Cancer Center Director of Translational Research, explains “doxorubicin is known to be an effective anti-cancer drug, but has been difficult to give patients an adequate dose without negative side effects. This new strategy represents the first time we’ve seen such an impact on metastatic growth, and it was accomplished without the collateral damage of weight loss or other outward signs of toxicity in the patient.”

While the treatment was found to have little effect on primary tumors, it effectively prevented metastasizing in pancreatic and kidney cancers of mice. Metastasis is typically more difficult to treat than primary tumors, and is often the cause of death in cancer victims. Integrin ανβ3 is expressed by tumorous blood vessels that give rise to angiogenesis, or the formation of new blood vessels. Metastasis is more reliant on new vessel growth than established tumors, so targeting these areas with chemotherapy may help to prevent it.

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