Preliminary tests show an anti-cancer drug loosely attached to gold nanoparticles starts accumulating deep inside tumors within minutes of injection and can be activated for an effective treatment within two hours. The same drug injected alone takes two days to gather and attacks the tumor from the surface—a far less effective route.
Speeding anti-cancer drugs directly into tumors enables patients to receive lower doses of the toxic chemicals, thereby saving healthy tissue from damage and other harsh side effects suffered in traditional chemotherapy.
“We hope to lower the dosage by at least a factor of 10,” said Clemens Burda, associate professor of chemistry and senior author of the paper. The research team comprised Burda, graduate students Yu Cheng and Joseph D. Meyers, research assistant professor of biomedical engineering Ann-Marie Broome, chemistry professor Malcolm E. Kenney and associate professor of biomedical engineering James Basilion.
The key to success? The scientists tied an anti-cancer drug to golden missiles using a weak chemical interaction called a noncovalent bond. In molecule construction, a covalent bond is a heavy rope lashed and knotted; a noncovalent bond is a shoestring tied in a bow.
“Very often, additions to chemical systems change properties of the components of the system,” Burda said. Attempts by his and other research groups to use covalent bonds for drug delivery have resulted in such complications and less than hoped-for results.
The researchers, who come from a breadth of disciplines, found that by using a noncovalent bond to attach the drug to coated gold, they eliminated interference among the desired properties of each component.
Burda’s group sought to simplify the process by using materials that have well-known properties.
The work, titled “Deep Penetration of a PDT Drug into Tumors by Noncovalent Drug-Gold Nanoparticle Conjugates,” was published in February in the online edition of the Journal of the American Chemical Society. To read more, click here.
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