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Communication helps target tumors

June 22, 2011

Mouse tumor imaging using targeted particles (credit: Liat Goldshaid et al.)

A new technique that uses nanoparticles and engineered proteins to broadcast the location of cancer in the body can deliver up to a 40-fold greater concentration of chemotherapy drugs to tumors than untargeted cancer treatments.

By designing a system of nanoparticle and protein components that can communicate with one another, biomedical engineer Geoffrey von Maltzahn of Flagship Ventures, an investment firm that helps launch new therapeutics and medical technologies companies, and his colleagues devised a nano-based system that can help localize cancers, as well as more efficiently deliver therapeutic agents to tumors, reducing the potential for collateral damage to healthy tissues.

The system involves two sets of molecular components — signaling modules (gold nanorods or engineered proteins), which locate the tumor and trigger the blood in its vessels to coagulate, and receiving modules (fluorescently-labeled iron oxide nanoparticles or liposomes coated with peptides), which respond to the coagulation and deliver therapeutic agents to the tumors.

Ref.: G. von Maltzahn, et. al.  “Nanoparticles that communicate in vivo to amplify tumour targeting,” Nature Materials, doi: 10.1038/nmat3049, 2011.

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