Nanoparticle paves the way for new triple negative breast cancer drug

March 16, 2017, University of Bradford
Professor Mohamed El-Tanani, Institute for Cancer Therapeutics, University of Bradford, UK. Credit: University of Bradford

A potential new drug to tackle the highly aggressive 'triple negative' breast cancer - and a nanoparticle to deliver it directly into the cancer cells - have been developed by UK researchers.

The is a peptide (fragment of a protein) discovered by Professor Mohamed El-Tanani at the University of Bradford's Institute for Cancer Therapeutics. Professor El-Tanani has shown in computer models that the peptide blocks a protein called RAN which helps cancer cells to divide and grow. High levels of RAN have been linked to aggressive tumour growth, cancer spread, resistance to chemotherapy and poor prognosis in a number of cancers, including triple negative breast cancer (TNBC).

"We knew we'd need a novel delivery mechanism for this drug because on their own are unstable and they can degrade too quickly to be effective," explains Professor El Tanani. "Using a nanoparticle as a delivery mechanism was the perfect solution."

Working with colleagues from Ulster University, Sunderland and Queen's University Belfast, the team developed a nanoparticle from a biodegradable polymer that could encapsulate the peptide. They tested various different polymers in order to determine which was most effective at helping the protein enter the cancer cells and attack them.

Laboratory tests showed that when this nanoparticle, loaded with the peptide, was added to the triple negative , the cells would actively take it in. Their growth rate then reduced, they stopped replicating and around two thirds of the cells died within 24 hours. This compared with the peptide on its own, or an empty nanoparticle, which had no impact on the cells' growth.

The researchers also confirmed that the drug was killing the cancer cells through the mechanism they had seen in their computer models - by blocking the action of RAN which plays an important role in cell division and growth.

Previous research by Professor El-Tanani has shown that blocking RAN can also prevent or even reverse resistance to chemotherapy in small cell lung cancer.

Between 10-20 per cent of breast cancers are found to be triple negative - which means the cancer does not have receptors for the hormones oestrogen and progesterone or the protein HER2. This limits the range of treatments that can be used, resulting in poorer prognosis and increased risk of recurrence.

"By developing a nanoparticle that can help this peptide enter triple negative breast and block RAN we've brought this potential new treatment a step closer to the clinic," said Professor El-Tanani. "We're already working on in vivo tests of the nanoparticle in a triple negative model and are thinking ahead to taking this drug into clinical trials."

Professor El-Tanani is also working on a number of other potential RAN inhibitors, including a 'repurposed' drug that has been already pre-clinically validated in breast and lung cancer and is ready for clinical trials. The University of Bradford is actively seeking further funding and investor support to support the development of these drug candidates.

The findings are published in the International Journal of Pharmaceutics.

Explore further: Blocking Ran protein reverses resistance of lung and breast cancers

More information: Yusuf A. Haggag et al, Nano-encapsulation of a novel anti-Ran-GTPase peptide for blockade of regulator of chromosome condensation 1 (RCC1) function in MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells, International Journal of Pharmaceutics (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.ijpharm.2017.02.006

Related Stories

Blocking Ran protein reverses resistance of lung and breast cancers

October 4, 2016
Researchers at the University of Bradford have discovered a way to prevent chemotherapy resistance in lung cancer by blocking a protein found in cancer cells.

Promising findings towards targeted breast cancer therapy

November 14, 2016
New research led by Conway Fellow, Professor Joe Duffy and Professor John Crown in St Vincent's University Hospital has reported for the first time on a new treatment that could be used in the majority of patients with triple ...

Discovery of potential treatment for aggressive form of breast cancer

November 2, 2016
A new drug could be used to treat one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer, a research centre based at University College Dublin and St Vincent's Hospital has discovered.

Researchers identify new potential treatment for cancer metastasis

January 9, 2017
Breast cancer metastasis, the process by which cancer spreads, may be prevented through the new use of a class of drugs already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Natural compound found in herbs, vegetables could improve treatment of triple-negative breast cancer in women

January 23, 2017
More than 100 women die from breast cancer every day in the United States. Triple-negative breast cancers, which comprise 15 to 20 percent of all breast tumors, are a particularly deadly type of breast disease that often ...

The way breast cancer genes act could predict your treatment

February 21, 2017
A Michigan State University breast cancer researcher has shown that effective treatment options can be predicted based on the way certain breast cancer genes act or express themselves.

Recommended for you

Study shows key enzyme linked to therapy resistance in deadly lung cancer

December 10, 2018
Researchers at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have identified a link between an enzyme tied to cancer formation and therapy resistance in patients with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-mutant non-small ...

A code for reprogramming immune sentinels

December 10, 2018
For the first time, a research team at Lund University in Sweden has successfully reprogrammed mouse and human skin cells into immune cells called dendritic cells. The process is quick and effective, representing a pioneering ...

Potential seen for tailoring treatment for acute myeloid leukemia

December 8, 2018
Advances in rapid screening of leukemia cells for drug susceptibility and resistance are bringing scientists closer to patient-tailored treatment for acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

Study may offer doctors a more effective way to treat neuroblastoma

December 7, 2018
A very large team of researchers, mostly from multiple institutions across Germany, has found what might be a better way to treat patients with neuroblastoma, a type of cancer. In their paper published in the journal Science, ...

Major breakthrough in quest for cancer vaccine

December 6, 2018
The idea of a cancer vaccine is something researchers have been working on for over 50 years, but until recently they were never able to prove exactly how such a vaccine would work.

'Chemo brain' caused by malfunction in three types of brain cells, study finds

December 6, 2018
More than half of cancer survivors suffer from cognitive impairment from chemotherapy that lingers for months or years after the cancer is gone. In a new study explaining the cellular mechanisms behind this condition, scientists ...

0 comments

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.