Dr. James Baker’s team of researchers has developed nanoparticles as vehicles to deliver chemotherapy agents. Using a multi-armed molecule called a dendrimer, these University of Michigan researchers attached the powerful drug methotrexate, but also the vitamin folate:
“It’s like a Trojan horse,” Baker explains. “Folate molecules on the nanoparticle bind to receptors on tumor cell membranes and the cell immediately internalizes it, because it thinks it’s getting the vitamin it needs. But while it’s bringing folate across the cell membrane, the cell also draws in the methotrexate that will poison it.”
In conventional chemotherapy, drugs like methotrexate must diffuse across a cell membrane to get inside cancer cells, according to Baker. It’s a slow process and requires a high concentration of drug in the extra-cellular fluid, which can damage normal cells and tissues.
When tested in laboratory mice that had received injections of human epithelial cancer cells, the nanoparticle-based therapy using folic acid and methotrexate was 10 times more effective at delaying tumor growth than the drug given alone. Nanoparticle treatment also proved to be far less toxic to mice in the study than the anticancer drug alone.
Like a Trojan horse, but on a rather different scale.
More at U of M’s dendrimer website…