Experts say that a nano-capsule developed in a science lab at a Los Angeles university may go a long way in fighting cancer and improving treatments, including reducing the side effects that come along with many of today’s conventional treatments.
A new study by scientists at UCLA, published in the peer-reviewed journal Nano Today, profiles a new, degradable nanoscale shell – a tiny capsule – that can carry proteins to cancer cells and destroy them without causing undo harm to the body’s healthy cells.
The study authors, led by Yi Tang, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and a member of the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA, report that the tiny shells are made of a water-soluble polymer that can safely enter the body to deliver a protein complex directly to the nucleus of cancer cells. These same shells, only 100 nanometers in size, will degrade if they come in contact with healthy cells.
The process does not carry the same risks of genetic mutations that are common with gene therapy for cancer, Tang noted. Furthermore, unlike chemotherapy, which does not effectively discriminate between healthy and cancerous cells, there is no risk to healthy cells, he adds.
“This approach is potentially a new way to treat cancer,” he added. “It is a difficult problem to deliver the protein if we don’t use this vehicle. This is a unique way to treat cancer cells and leave healthy cells untouched.”
Thus far, testing has been done on human breast cancer cell lines in laboratory mice. A significant reduction in tumor growth was noted. Now, the group will continue to work on the concept and the capsule, finding ways to more precisely target tumors and seeking out a way to keep the capsules in circulation for longer periods of time, Tang says.
Such advances in cancer treatment technology continue to provide hope for individuals with hard-to-treat, hard-to-target cancers, including mesothelioma. Mesothelioma treatments are often unsuccessful and generally cause a number of debilitating side effects. New treatments like the nanocapsule will hopefully serve to prolong lives and make treatments easier to tolerate.