New method for detecting tumours using nanoparticles

The ambitious research project, with a budget of almost 11 million euros —8 of which were funded by the European Commission — and in which some twenty bodies from throughout Europe have been taking part, came to a satisfactory end, the majority complying with the aims set out at the beginning. Amongst others, it has enabled the successful development at a laboratory level of a method of detection of tumours by means of a carrier injection of nanoparticles, thanks to software also developed within the project. It has also opened the doors to new therapies based on the results obtained to date at the pre-clinical stage.

With just one injection the nanoparticles synthesised within the remit of this research travel in the body of the patient. The software developed has enabled locating and minimising the tumour in diseased mice, using various parameters. The new tool will also enable observing the progress of the cancer over time and control its potential growth or disappearance.

This development has been possible thanks to the synthesis of different types of nanoparticles, involving both their composition as well as the tumour-recognizing molecules that join them. The studies to evaluate the toxicity of these nanoparticles are then undertaken —first in vitro within cells in the laboratory and then in vivo in mice. One of the nanoparticles amongst the dozen synthesised was discarded as it turned out to be toxic at therapeutic doses.

Subsequently, the four most promising types of nanoparticles were chosen on the basis of their physico-chemical properties, the aim being to test their therapeutic capacity. These trials were undertaken first in cell cultures and then in mice, following the new recommendations for ethical animal experimentation directed by the European Commission (3R). The in vitro results obtained show that the synthesised nanoparticles not only have more affinity with the tumour cells than with healthy ones, but are also capable of destroying the cancer cells.

Due fundamentally to the greater complexity of living systems, the in vitro therapeutic results have not transferred equally to in vivo results. This difficulty is partly due to the synthesis process at the laboratory level, intrinsic to any experimentation with nanoparticles ( “batch to batch” variability), providing unequal results depending on the batch of nanoparticles analysed. This obstacle is common in the synthesis of nanoparticles for biomedical use.

Amongst the organisations involved in the project is Vicomtech-IK4, partner with Gaiker-IK4 in Alianza IK4, which has undertaken a primary role in the development of new software, besides CIC bioGUNE, Leitat and Pharmamar. Gaiker-IK4, apart from coordinating the activities of the whole consortium, has been one of the centres responsible for analysing the toxicity of the nanoparticles employed in carrying out this research.

Medikuntza, Nanoteknologia