A simpler way to treat cancer

June 2, 2014 by Angela Herring
Professor Vladimir Torchilin’s groundbreaking work in nanomedicine recently earned him the 2013 Blaise Pascal Medal for Biomedical Science from the European Academy of Science. Credit: Brooks Canaday.

(Medical Xpress)—Sometimes the best solutions are the simplest ones. This is the philosophy that Northeastern professor Vladimir Torchilin and his team took in new research carried out in collaboration with physics professor Dmitri Lapotko from Rice University and presented in a paper published Sunday in the journal Nature Medicine.

"It's an absolutely new concept for treating cancer," said Torchilin, a Distinguished Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences and director of the School of Pharmacy's Center for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology and Nanomedicine. "There are several factors combined in a very simple way, which results in a synergistic effect against the tumor."

Together with the physicists at Rice, Torchilin's team created a approach that combines chemical and physical modalities to more efficiently destroy a tumor while leaving nearby healthy intact.

"You start with two very well known and simple things," Torchilin said. "Nanomedicines and nanoparticles." Both allow clinicians to steer materials to specific cells in the body using recognition factors that are disproportionately expressed on . In the case of drug-loaded tumor-targeted nanomedicines, cancer cells welcome much higher concentrations of . In the case of nanoparticles, it's tiny tumor-targeted crumbs of gold that end up inside the .

Both methods are commonly used, but this is the first time they have been combined in a single therapeutic approach, explained Torchilin, who received the 2013 Blaise Pascal Medal for Biomedical Science from the European Academy of Science for his outstanding contribution to science and technology and the promotion of excellence in research and education.

"So now you have normal cells with very few drug particles and gold particles, and cancer cells with a lot of those," he said. "When those particles come into the cell—just because of the way cells deal with foreign particles—they form clusters." In cancer cells, these clusters will be large while in normal cells they will be small.

Next, the cells are irradiated with a laser beam, which interacts with such clusters and provokes a kind of a mini-explosion inside the cancer cell. Not only does this disrupt the physical structure of the cell from the inside out, it also breaks the nanomedicine delivery system containing the drug molecules, causing a simultaneous and massive drug release, Torchilin said.

"In normal cells with small clusters, the explosion won't happen or it will be very small so you cannot damage ," he said. "But in a cancer cell you have a large cluster, so the bubble will be big, which can damage the cell. But, simultaneously, like any strong strike, it will release the drug."

Each part of the treatment is necessary and works in concert with the others to create concurrent chemical and physical attacks on the cancer cell, while leaving healthy cells relatively unharmed. "You use the standard things," Torchilin said. "You just use them all together. Simple."

Explore further: A fast and effective mechanism to combat an aggressive cancer

More information: "On-demand intracellular amplification of chemoradiation with cancer-specific plasmonic nanobubbles." Ekaterina Y Lukianova-Hleb, et al. Nature Medicine (2014) DOI: 10.1038/nm.3484. Received 14 February 2013 Accepted 24 October 2013 Published online 01 June 2014

Related Stories

A fast and effective mechanism to combat an aggressive cancer

February 24, 2014
Ovarian cancer accounts for more deaths of American women than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. According to the American Cancer Society, one in 72 American women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer, ...

'Quadrapeutics' works in preclinical study of hard-to-treat tumors

June 1, 2014
The first preclinical study of a new Rice University-developed anti-cancer technology found that a novel combination of existing clinical treatments can instantaneously detect and kill only cancer cells—often by blowing ...

Signals found that recruit host animals' cells, enabling breast cancer metastasis

May 22, 2014
Working with mice, Johns Hopkins researchers report they have identified chemical signals that certain breast cancers use to recruit two types of normal cells needed for the cancers' spread. A description of the findings ...

New study shows promise for preventing therapy resistance in tumor cells

January 9, 2014
A new study led by University of Kentucky researchers suggests that activating the tumor suppressor p53 in normal cells causes them to secrete Par-4, another potent tumor suppressor protein that induces cell death in cancer ...

Recommended for you

Whole food diet may help prevent colon cancer, other chronic conditions

September 21, 2017
A diet that includes plenty of colorful vegetables and fruits may contain compounds that can stop colon cancer and inflammatory bowel diseases in pigs, according to an international team of researchers. Understanding how ...

New kinase detection method helps identify targets for developing cancer drugs

September 21, 2017
Purdue University researchers have developed a high-throughput method for matching kinases to the proteins they phosphorylate, speeding the ability to identify multiple potential cancer drug targets.

Poliovirus therapy induces immune responses against cancer

September 20, 2017
An investigational therapy using modified poliovirus to attack cancer tumors appears to unleash the body's own capacity to fight malignancies by activating an inflammation process that counter's the ability of cancer cells ...

Scientists restore tumor-fighting structure to mutated breast cancer proteins

September 20, 2017
Scientists at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute have successfully determined the full architecture of the breast cancer susceptibility protein (BRCA1) for the first time. This three-dimensional information provides ...

Brain cancer growth halted by absence of protein, study finds

September 20, 2017
The growth of certain aggressive brain tumors can be halted by cutting off their access to a signaling molecule produced by the brain's nerve cells, according to a new study by researchers at the Stanford University School ...

New clinical trial explores combining immunotherapy and radiation for sarcoma patients

September 20, 2017
University of Maryland School of Medicine researchers are investigating a new approach to treat high-risk soft-tissue sarcomas by combining two immunotherapy drugs with radiation therapy to stimulate the immune system to ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

bearly
not rated yet Jun 03, 2014
Sadly like every other miracle treatment that has been developed to fight cancer most sick people will never benefit from this. I wonder why things like this never get to the people.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.