Polymer Coating Improves Cancer Drug Therapy

A University of South Carolina scientist has developed a polymer coating that helps powerful cancer drugs target and kill tumors like a military smart bomb.

The polymer coating developed by Peisheng Xu, a researcher in the South drug treatmentCarolina College of Pharmacy, provides two advantages. It encapsulates the drug, and it helps the drug locate the tumor, burrow inside it, and then release the medicine, according to a University of South Carolina news release.

Drugs on the market now usually move through the body innocuously. Sometimes, though, when they find their target, in addition to attacking the tumor, some collateral damage may occur.

“Lots of drugs are very effective in killing cancer cells,” Xu says, “but when they kill cancer cells, they also kill healthy cells, or damage healthy cells. Doxorubicin, for example, is a very powerful anticancer drug, but it will also cause heart damage — a patient can only use a certain amount of that drug over a lifetime, otherwise the patient will have heart problems.”

The polymer coating can contain a drug like doxorubicin. The news release explains more on how it functions:

The coating encapsulates the powerful anticancer agent, rendering it harmless until released. The polymer coating also has design features that help the drug find a tumor cell, work its way inside it, and only then release the anticancer cargo.

“The carrier I’m using is a nanoparticle,” Xu says. “It has a size about 1,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.”

The nanoparticle polymer that Xu and his colleagues at the university developed contains 2-(pyridine-2-yldisulfanyl) side chain, so that it releases the drug after it has entered the tumor. The innovation has been expanded also to coat the drug paclitaxel to provide a “cocktail therapy” option for cancer treatment. The research findings have been published in papers in Molecular Pharmaceutics and Advanced Materials.

Xu hopes that the innovation can treat other ailments as well. “We’re trying to extend the work into other areas as well, such as diseases of the central nervous system — Alzheimer’s disease — and liver disease,” he says. “We’ve also just begun a collaboration involving cardiovascular disease. The goal of my research is to give the patient the right drug, to the right tissue, to the right cell, in the right dose, at the right time.”

Source: “Smart-bombing cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and more,” University of South Carolina, 3/15/13
Image by Evgeny Purel.