In one of the first efforts to date to apply nanotechnology to targeted cancer therapeutics, researchers have created a nanoparticle formulation of a cancer drug that is both effective and nontoxic — qualities harder to achieve with the free drug. Their nanoparticle creation releases the potent but toxic targeted cancer drug directly to tumors, while sparing healthy tissue.
The findings in rodents with human tumors have helped launch clinical trials of the nanoparticle-encapsulated version of the drug, which are currently underway. Aurora kinase inhibitors are molecularly targeted agents that disrupt cancer’s cell cycle.
While effective, the inhibitors have proven highly toxic to patients and have stalled in late-stage trials. Development of several other targeted cancer drugs has been abandoned because of unacceptable toxicity. To improve drug safety and efficacy, Susan Ashton and colleagues designed polymeric nanoparticles called Accurins to deliver an Aurora kinase B inhibitor currently in clinical trials.
The nanoparticle formulation used ion pairing to efficiently encapsulate and control the release of the drug. In colorectal tumor-bearing rats and mice with diffuse large B cell lymphoma, the nanoparticles accumulated specifically in tumors, where they slowly released the drug to cancer cells. Compared to the free drug, the nanoparticle-encapsulated inhibitor blocked tumor growth more effectively at one half the drug dose and caused fewer side effects in the rodents.
A related Focus by David Bearss offers more insights on how Accurin nanoparticles may help enhance the safety and antitumor activity of Aurora kinase inhibitors and other molecularly targeted drugs.
The above post is reprinted from materials provided by American Association for the Advancement of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
- Susan Ashton, Young Ho Song, Jim Nolan, Elaine Cadogan, Jim Murray, Rajesh Odedra, John Foster, Peter A. Hall, Susan Low, Paula Taylor, Rebecca Ellston, Urszula M. Polanska, Joanne Wilson, Colin Howes, Aaron Smith, Richard J. A. Goodwin, John G. Swales, Nicole Strittmatter, Zoltán Takáts, Anna Nilsson, Per Andren, Dawn Trueman, Mike Walker, Corinne L. Reimer, Greg Troiano, Donald Parsons, David De Witt, Marianne Ashford, Jeff Hrkach, Stephen Zale, Philip J. Jewsbury, and Simon T. Barry. Aurora kinase inhibitor nanoparticles target tumors with favorable therapeutic index in vivo. Science Translational Medicine, 2016 DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aad2355
Some drug regimens, such as those designed to eliminate tumors, are notorious for nasty side effects. Unwanted symptoms are often the result of medicine going where it’s not needed and harming healthy cells. To minimize this risk, researchers in Quebec have developed nanoparticles that only release a drug when exposed to near-infrared light, which doctors could beam onto a specific site. Their report appears in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
For years, scientists have been striving to develop localized treatments to reduce side effects of therapeutic drugs. They have designed drug-delivery systems that respond to light, temperature, ultrasound and pH changes. One promising approach involved drug-carrying materials that are sensitive to ultraviolet (UV) light. Shining a beam in this part of the light spectrum causes the materials to release their therapeutic cargo at a designated location. But UV light has major limitations. It can’t penetrate body tissues, and it is carcinogenic. Near-infrared (NIR) light can go through 1 to 2 centimeters of tissue and would be a safer alternative, but photosensitive drug-carriers don’t react to it. McGill University engineering professor Marta Cerruti and colleagues sought a way to bring the two kinds of light together in one possible solution.
The researchers started with nanoparticles that convert NIR light into UV light and coated them in a UV-sensitive hydrogel shell infused with a fluorescent protein, a stand-in for drug molecules. When exposed to NIR light, the nanoparticles instantaneously converted it to UV, which induced the shell to release the protein payload. The researchers note that their on-demand delivery system could not only supply drug molecules but also agents for imaging and diagnostics.
- Ghulam Jalani, Rafik Naccache, Derek H. Rosenzweig, Lisbet Haglund, Fiorenzo Vetrone, Marta Cerruti.Photocleavable Hydrogel-Coated Upconverting Nanoparticles: A Multifunctional Theranostic Platform for NIR Imaging and On-Demand Macromolecular Delivery. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2016; DOI: 10.1021/jacs.5b12357
Nanoparticles disguised as human platelets could greatly enhance the healing power of drug treatments for cardiovascular disease and systemic bacterial infections. These platelet-mimicking nanoparticles, developed by engineers at the University of California, San Diego, are capable of delivering drugs to targeted sites in the body — particularly injured blood vessels, as well as organs infected by harmful bacteria. Engineers demonstrated that by delivering the drugs just to the areas where the drugs were needed, these platelet copycats greatly increased the therapeutic effects of drugs that were administered to diseased rats and mice.
The research, led by nanoengineers at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, was published online Sept. 16 in Nature.
“This work addresses a major challenge in the field of nanomedicine: targeted drug delivery with nanoparticles,” said Liangfang Zhang, a nanoengineering professor at UC San Diego and the senior author of the study. “Because of their targeting ability, platelet-mimicking nanoparticles can directly provide a much higher dose of medication specifically to diseased areas without saturating the entire body with drugs.”
The study is an excellent example of using engineering principles and technology to achieve “precision medicine,” said Shu Chien, a professor of bioengineering and medicine, director of the Institute of Engineering in Medicine at UC San Diego, and a corresponding author on the study. “While this proof of principle study demonstrates specific delivery of therapeutic agents to treat cardiovascular disease and bacterial infections, it also has broad implications for targeted therapy for other diseases such as cancer and neurological disorders,” said Chien.
The ins and outs of the platelet copycats
On the outside, platelet-mimicking nanoparticles are cloaked with human platelet membranes, which enable the nanoparticles to circulate throughout the bloodstream without being attacked by the immune system. The platelet membrane coating has another beneficial feature: it preferentially binds to damaged blood vessels and certain pathogens such as MRSA bacteria, allowing the nanoparticles to deliver and release their drug payloads specifically to these sites in the body.
Enclosed within the platelet membranes are nanoparticle cores made of a biodegradable polymer that can be safely metabolized by the body. The nanoparticles can be packed with many small drug molecules that diffuse out of the polymer core and through the platelet membrane onto their targets.
To make the platelet-membrane-coated nanoparticles, engineers first separated platelets from whole blood samples using a centrifuge. The platelets were then processed to isolate the platelet membranes from the platelet cells. Next, the platelet membranes were broken up into much smaller pieces and fused to the surface of nanoparticle cores. The resulting platelet-membrane-coated nanoparticles are approximately 100 nanometers in diameter, which is one thousand times thinner than an average sheet of paper.
This cloaking technology is based on the strategy that Zhang’s research group had developed to cloak nanoparticles in red blood cell membranes. The researchers previously demonstrated that nanoparticles disguised as red blood cells are capable of removing dangerous pore-forming toxins produced by MRSA, poisonous snake bites and bee stings from the bloodstream.
By using the body’s own platelet membranes, the researchers were able to produce platelet mimics that contain the complete set of surface receptors, antigens and proteins naturally present on platelet membranes. This is unlike other efforts, which synthesize platelet mimics that replicate one or two surface proteins of the platelet membrane.
“Our technique takes advantage of the unique natural properties of human platelet membranes, which have a natural preference to bind to certain tissues and organisms in the body,” said Zhang. This targeting ability, which red blood cell membranes do not have, makes platelet membranes extremely useful for targeted drug delivery, researchers said.
Platelet copycats at work
In one part of this study, researchers packed platelet-mimicking nanoparticles with docetaxel, a drug used to prevent scar tissue formation in the lining of damaged blood vessels, and administered them to rats afflicted with injured arteries. Researchers observed that the docetaxel-containing nanoparticles selectively collected onto the damaged sites of arteries and healed them.
When packed with a small dose of antibiotics, platelet-mimicking nanoparticles can also greatly minimize bacterial infections that have entered the bloodstream and spread to various organs in the body. Researchers injected nanoparticles containing just one-sixth the clinical dose of the antibiotic vancomycin into one of group of mice systemically infected with MRSA bacteria. The organs of these mice ended up with bacterial counts up to one thousand times lower than mice treated with the clinical dose of vancomycin alone.
“Our platelet-mimicking nanoparticles can increase the therapeutic efficacy of antibiotics because they can focus treatment on the bacteria locally without spreading drugs to healthy tissues and organs throughout the rest of the body,” said Zhang. “We hope to develop platelet-mimicking nanoparticles into new treatments for systemic bacterial infections and cardiovascular disease.”
- Che-Ming J. Hu, Ronnie H. Fang, Kuei-Chun Wang, Brian T. Luk, Soracha Thamphiwatana, Diana Dehaini, Phu Nguyen, Pavimol Angsantikul, Cindy H. Wen, Ashley V. Kroll, Cody Carpenter, Manikantan Ramesh, Vivian Qu, Sherrina H. Patel, Jie Zhu, William Shi, Florence M. Hofman, Thomas C. Chen, Weiwei Gao, Kang Zhang, Shu Chien, Liangfang Zhang. Nanoparticle biointerfacing by platelet membrane cloaking. Nature, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/nature15373
A schematic of targeted drug delivery towards breast cancer is shown. Nanodiamonds are encapsulated within liposomes that are functionalized with targeting antibodies. Credit: Dr. Laura Moore (Prof. Dean Ho Group)
A trio of researchers, Dean Ho, with UCLA in the U.S., Chung-Huei Katherine Wang, with BRIM Biotechnology Inc., in Taipei and Edward Kai-Hua Chow with the National University of Singapore, has published a review in Science Advances, of the ways nanodiamonds are being used in cancer research and offer insights into the ways they may be used in the future.
As the research trio note, significant progress has been made over the past several decades in the development of nano-materials for use in treating cancer and other ailments. The central idea is to use very tiny particles to carry tumor fighting drugs to tumors (they are not as easily repelled as the larger varieties) thereby healing the patient. The list includes metallic particles, nanotubes, polymers and even lipids. More recently, scientists have been looking into using nanodiamonds as more is learned about the electrostatic capabilities of their facet surfaces when they carry chemicals in a biological system, the ways their inert core can be useful in certain applications and as a means to capitalize on their tunable surfaces.
The authors note that nanodiamonds used in medical applications fall into two main categories, detonation nanodiamonds (DNDs) and fluorescent nanodiamonds (FNDs) as part of highlighting the major ways that nanodiamonds are currently being used:
Imaging—both DNDs and FNDs, the researchers note are increasingly being eyed as a way to improve magnetic resonance imaging and more recently FNDs are also being seen as a way to track stem cells to learn more about their regenerative potential.
Drug Delivery—a lot of research is currently going on to learn more about which types of drugs adhere well to nanodiamond facets, most specifically those used in chemotherapy applications.
Biodistribution and Toxicity—similarly, a lot of research is being conducted to learn more about the ways nanodiamonds can be placed into a living organism (injection, consumption, though the skin, etc.) and whether there is a danger of toxicity.
The researchers note that another area of study involves using nanodiamonds as part of drug testing—if medications can be carried to specific sites, they note, there might be less side-effects.
Another benefit of using nanodiamonds, they note, is that despite being associated with precious gems, nanodiamonds would be quite cheap to procure and use because they can be obtained from mining waste.
Explore further: Tiny diamonds to boost treatment of chemoresistant leukemia
More information: Nanodiamonds: The intersection of nanotechnology, drug development, and personalized medicine, Science Advances 21 Aug 2015: Vol. 1, no. 7, e1500439. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1500439
The implementation of nanomedicine in cellular, preclinical, and clinical studies has led to exciting advances ranging from fundamental to translational, particularly in the field of cancer. Many of the current barriers in cancer treatment are being successfully addressed using nanotechnology-modified compounds. These barriers include drug resistance leading to suboptimal intratumoral retention, poor circulation times resulting in decreased efficacy, and off-target toxicity, among others.
The first clinical nanomedicine advances to overcome these issues were based on monotherapy, where small-molecule and nucleic acid delivery demonstrated substantial improvements over unmodified drug administration. Recent preclinical studies have shown that combination nanotherapies, composed of either multiple classes of nanomaterials or a single nanoplatform functionalized with several therapeutic agents, can image and treat tumors with improved efficacy over single-compound delivery. Among the many promising nanomaterials that are being developed, nanodiamonds have received increasing attention because of the unique chemical-mechanical properties on their faceted surfaces.
More recently, nanodiamond-based drug delivery has been included in the rational and systematic design of optimal therapeutic combinations using an implicitly de-risked drug development platform technology, termed Phenotypic Personalized Medicine–Drug Development (PPM-DD). The application of PPM-DD to rapidly identify globally optimized drug combinations successfully addressed a pervasive challenge confronting all aspects of drug development, both nano and non-nano. This review will examine various nanomaterials and the use of PPM-DD to optimize the efficacy and safety of current and future cancer treatment. How this platform can accelerate combinatorial nanomedicine and the broader pharmaceutical industry toward unprecedented clinical impact will also be discussed.
08 May 2015
Summary: Some substances, when they undergo a process called ‘rapid-freezing’ or ‘supercooling,’ remain in liquid form — even at below-freezing temperatures. A new study is the first to break down the rules governing the complex process of crystallization through rapid-cooling.
Its findings may revolutionize the delivery of drugs in the human body, providing a way to ‘freeze’ the drugs at an optimal time and location in the body.
Water, when cooled below 32°F, eventually freezes — it’s science known even to pre-schoolers. But some substances, when they undergo a process called “rapid-freezing” or “supercooling,” remain in liquid form — even at below-freezing temperatures.
The supercooling phenomenon has been studied for its possible applications in a wide spectrum of fields. A new Tel Aviv University study published in Scientific Reports is the first to break down the rules governing the complex process of crystallization through rapid-cooling. According to the research, membranes can be engineered to crystallize at a specific time. In other words, it is indeed possible to control what was once considered a wild and unpredictable process — and it may revolutionize the delivery of drugs in the human body, providing a way to “freeze” the drugs at the exact time and biological location in the body necessary.
The study was led jointly by Dr. Roy Beck of the Department of Physics at TAU’s School of Physics and Astronomy and Prof. Dan Peer of the Department of Cell Research and Immunology at TAU’s Faculty of Life Sciences, and conducted by TAU graduate students Guy Jacoby, Keren Cohen, and Kobi Barkai.
Controlling a metastable process
“We describe a supercooled material as ‘metastable,’ meaning it is very sensitive to any external perturbation that may transform it back to its stable low-temperature state,” Dr. Beck said. “We discovered in our study that it is possible to control the process and harness the advantages of the fluid/not-fluid transition to design a precise and effective nanoscale drug encapsulating system.”
For the purpose of the study, the researchers conducted experiments on nanoscale drug vesicles (fluid-filled sacs that deliver drugs to their targets) to determine the precise dynamics of crystallization. The researchers used a state-of-the-art X-ray scattering system sensitive to nanoscale structures.
“One key challenge in designing new nano-vesicles for drug delivery is their stability,” said Dr. Beck. “On the one hand, you need a stable vesicle that will entrap your drug until it reaches the specific diseased cell. But on the other, if the vesicle is too stable, the payload may not be released upon arrival at its target.”
“Supercooled material is a suitable candidate since the transition between liquid and crystal states is very drastic and the liquid membrane explodes to rearrange as crystals. Therefore this new physical insight can be used to release entrapped drugs at the target and not elsewhere in the body’s microenvironment. This is a novel mechanism for timely drug release.”
All in the timing
The researchers found that the membranes were able to remain stable for tens of hours before collectively crystallizing at a predetermined time.
“What was amazing was our ability to reproduce the results over and over again without any complicated techniques,” said Dr. Beck. “We showed that the delayed crystallization was not sensitive to minor imperfection or external perturbation. Moreover, we found multiple alternative ways to ‘tweak the clock’ and start the crystallization process.”
The researchers are investigating an appropriate new nano-capsule capable of releasing medication at a specific time and place in the body. “The challenge now is to find the right drugs to exploit our insights for the medical benefit of patients,” said Dr. Beck.
- Guy Jacoby, Keren Cohen, Kobi Barkan, Yeshayahu Talmon, Dan Peer, Roy Beck. Metastability in lipid based particles exhibits temporally deterministic and controllable behavior. Scientific Reports, 2015; 5: 9481 DOI: 10.1038/srep09481