In their latest study with researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Massachusetts General Hospital, the BWH team created a drug delivery system that is able to effectively deliver a tremendous amount of chemotherapeutic drugs to prostate cancer cells.
The process involved is akin to building and equipping a car with the finest features, adding a passenger (in this case the cancer drug), and sending it off to its destination (in this case the cancer cell).
To design the "vehicle," researchers used a selection strategy developed by Doctor Omid Farokhzad's team that allowed them to essentially select for ligands (molecules that bind to the cell surface) that could specifically target prostate cancer cells. The researchers then attached nanoparticles containing chemotherapy, in this case docetaxel, to these hand-picked ligands.
To understand Farokhzad's selection strategy, one must understand ligand behavior. While most ligands mainly have the ability to bind to cells, the strategy of Farokhzad and his colleagues allowed them to select specific ligands that were not only able to bind to prostate cancer cells, but also possessed two other important features: 1) they were smart enough to distinguish between cancer and non-cancer cells and 2) they were designed to be swallowed by cancer cells.
"Most ligands are engulfed by cells, but not efficiently," said Farokhzad. "We designed one that is intended to be engulfed." Moreover, the ability for a ligand to intentionally be engulfed by a cell is crucial in drug delivery since it enables a significant amount of drug to enter the cancer cell, as opposed to remaining outside on the cell surface. This is a more effective method for cancer therapy.
Another important aspect of this drug delivery design is that these ligand-nanoparticle components are able to interact with multiple cancer markers (antigens) on the cell surface. Unlike other drug delivery systems, this makes it versatile and potentially more broadly applicable.
MEDICA.de; Source: Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH)