Nanoresearchers at the Methodist Neurological Institute and Rice University have developed a way to selectively kill brain cancer cells by using a tiny syringe to deliver a combination of chemotherapy drugs directly in the cells.
"Without our nano-delivery system, we know that current drug delivery would be highly toxic to patients if we tried to deliver all three of these drugs at once," said David Baskin, M.D., neurosurgeon at the Methodist Neurological Institute, who began his nanomedicine research in 2004 with the late Nobel laureate and Rice chemist Richard Smalley. "But delivered in combination using these nano-syringes, our research demonstrated extreme lethality, with at least a three-fold increase in the number of dead cancer cells following treatment. The nano-syringes selectively deliver these drugs only to cancer cells, and appear not to be toxic to normal neurons and other non-cancerous brain cells."
In a study published online April 15 in Nature Medicine, a second team led by Sam Gambhir, MD, PhD, professor and chair of radiology, showed that the minuscule nanoparticles engineered in his lab homed in on and highlighted brain tumors, precisely delineating their boundaries and greatly easing their complete removal. The new technique could someday help improve the prognosis of patients with deadly brain cancers.
Human brain scans. Like special-forces troops laser-tagging targets for a bomber pilot, tiny particules that can be imaged three different ways at once have enabled Stanford Univeristy School of Medicine to remove brain tumors from mice with unprecedented accuracy.
"With brain tumors, surgeons don't have the luxury of removing large amounts of surrounding normal brain tissue to be sure no cancer cells are left," said Gambhir, who is the Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Professor for Clinical Investigation in Cancer Research and director of the Molecular Imaging Program at Stanford. "You clearly have to leave as much of the healthy brain intact as you possibly can."