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Stealth and Gold Cages: the Future of Tumor Drug Delivery?

By November 4, 2009December 18th, 2023Awareness, Science & Research

Nanotechnology – the science of developing tiny materials or devices (under 100 nanometers) – is increasingly employed in medicine, and is being harnessed to improve delivery or extend the lifespan of the drug in the bloodstream. Two new press reports this week highlight recent discoveries in this area that might be applied to tumor treatment.

MIT Technology Review online*reports that BIND Biosciences (founded by MIT chemical engineering wiz Robert Langer) is developing a novel ‘stealth drug’ approach.  A drug-infused bioparticle is coated with special proteins that will have an affinity to bind to the tumor cell; furthermore the stealth drug can stay in circulation for days, so it can be delivered at low doses. Studies to date have tested stealth delivery of a variety of drugs in mice, and the technique can stop growth of prostate, breast or lung cancer cells in these animals.  Key value of stealth delivery will be for chemotherapy agents that have toxic side effects; stealth delivery allows much lower doses to be given, but still be effective. However the technology could also be useful in delivering biologic drugs, such as those currently in preclinical and clinical testing for neurofibromatosis. The fact that stealth delivery will allow for lower drug doses is critical in neurofibromatosis, where drugs will most likely have to be taken over extended periods, even years. BIND is gearing up stealth drug production to do their first cancer trial next year.  Meanwhile, Tuesday’s New York Times** describes newly published research from Washington University to develop golden drug ‘nanocages’. These are tiny cages, made of gold, in which drug can be placed; near infrared light-is used as the activation trigger – this is absorbed more readily by gold than by the body –the light generates heat and causes the cage to ‘open’ and release the drug.  Looking ahead, the goal is to coat the cages to encourage them to adhere to tumors, just like the stealth drugs. The work was published in the journal Nature Materials.  While this is still in development, it is worth noting that an NF1 clinical trial to treat plexiform neurofibromas with a light-activated drug, Aptocine, is already underway***



* Stealthy Nanoparticles Attack Tumor Cells. MIT Technology Review Online 11/4/09


**Sending Drugs to Specific Spots in a Tiny Cage. New York Times Online 11/3/09

*** Visit and click on ‘clinical trials information’.