(Nanowerk News) A research team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)-Harvard Center for Nanotechnology Excellence has custom-designed nanoparticles that can deliver the anticancer drug cisplatin specifically to prostate cancer cells. The nanoparticles are composed of two different polymers and are decorated with a nucleic acid aptamer that binds to the tumor marker prostate-specific membrane antigen. This aptamer ensures that the nanoparticles deliver their payload only to prostate cancer cells.
To construct a stable nanoparticle that would only release its toxic cargo inside tumor cells, the investigators synthesized a modified version of cisplatin that includes a long hydrocarbon chain. As the nanoparticle forms, the hydrocarbon chain associates strongly with the hydrophobic chains of the polymer that forms the nanoparticle’s core. The researchers note that the hydrocarbon chain they chose optimizes both drug encapsulation and drug release inside tumor cells. Once the nanoparticle enters the cell, the modified drug is converted into its active form as a result of chemical conditions inside the cell.
Tests with human cancer cells growing in culture showed that these nanoparticles were taken up specifically by tumor cells and not by healthy cells. Nanoparticles lacking the targeting aptamer were not taken up either. These tests also demonstrated that the nanoparticles release their cargo over the course of 60 hours, providing a sustained lethal level of the drug inside the targeted cells. In addition, the nanoparticle formulation was approximately 100 times more effective at killing tumor cells than was cisplatin by itself.