Nanotechnology helps track and improve drug action in pancreatic cancer

Nanotechnology helps track and improve drug action in pancreatic cancer
Cancer cells (green) spreading through tissue surrounding a tumour

(Medical Xpress)—UK and Australian scientists have been able to show ways in which we can markedly improve drug targeting of solid tumours, using tiny 'biosensors' along with new advanced imaging techniques.

In real time and in three dimensions, these technologies can show us how cancers spread and how active respond to a particular drug. They can also tell us how much, how often and how long to administer drugs. Finally, using preclinical models of the disease, they can guide the use of 'combination therapies', techniques that enhance drug delivery by breaking up the tissue surrounding a tumour.

The study was performed by Dr Paul Timpson of the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and Professor Kurt Anderson of the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research in Glasgow, UK. Max Nobis studied the signaling protein 'Src', which becomes activated to drive invasive , and looked at how it could best be deactivated by a small molecule inhibitor—currently in phase II clinical trials—known as 'dasatinib'. Their findings are published in the journal Cancer Research, now online.

"We have already shown that Src is activated in pancreatic tumours and we knew that dasatinib deactivates Src and could partially reduce the spread of this form of cancer. Through a collaborative partner in the US, we had access to FRET (Fluorescence ) imaging technology," said Dr Paul Timpson.

"Until now, we have been limited to studying tumour signalling in two dimensions – and lacked a dynamic way of reporting on drug targeting in live . Nanotechnology opens up a portal into living tissue that allows us to watch cancers spreading, and to determine which parts of a tumour we should be targeting with drugs."

"This imaging technology has allowed us to map areas within the tumour that are highly aggressive, allowing us to pinpoint regions of poor drug delivery deep within a tumour at sub-cellular resolution. We can then see where we need to improve on drug delivery to improve clinical outcome."

It has been hard to treat pancreatic tumours because they are extremely dense with collagen and have poor blood vessel networks for delivering drugs.

Professor Kurt Anderson observed that combination therapies can now be used to break down collagen, weakening tumour architecture and making it easier to get the drugs where they need to be. "The trick is to break down the structure just enough to get the drug in, but not so much that you damage the organ itself," he said.

"These new FRET technologies help us gauge what is just enough and not too much."

"These are very exciting discoveries – we now have spatial and temporal information about cancer behaviour that we've never had before, as well as the nanotechnology to monitor and improve drug delivery in hard to reach tumour regions."

Related Stories

Brain tumour cells killed by anti-nausea drug

Mar 18, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—New research from the University of Adelaide has shown for the first time that the growth of brain tumours can be halted by a drug currently being used to help patients recover from the side effects of ...

Research makes significant cancer breakthrough

Aug 08, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- A major breakthrough by scientists at Queen's University Belfast could lead to more effective treatments for throat and cervical cancer. The discovery could see the development of new therapies, which ...

Recommended for you

Stopping liver cancer in its tracks

31 minutes ago

A University of Tokyo research group has discovered that AIM (Apoptosis Inhibitor of Macrophage), a protein that plays a preventive role in obesity progression, can also prevent tumor development in mice ...

HHS releases 13th Report on Carcinogens

56 minutes ago

Four substances have been added in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 13th Report on Carcinogens, a science-based document that identifies chemical, biological, and physical agents that are ...

Dog's epigenome gives clues to human cancer

2 hours ago

The bond between humans and dogs is strong and ancient. From being the protector of the first herds in a faithful pet, dogs and people share many aspects of life. The relationship between the two species ...

User comments