|Title||The Thunder God Vine, assists by Nanotechnology, could shake up future cancer treatment|
|Embargo date||2014-08-21 12:00||Hits||1380|
Center for Nanoparticle Research
The Thunder God Vine, assists by Nanotechnology, could shake up future cancer treatment.docx
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the second leading cause of cancer-associated death worldwide. These regrettably poor prognoses are due to the difficulty in treating this cancer using conventional chemotherapeutic drugs such as doxorubicin, epirubicin, cisplatin, 5-fluorouracil, etoposide or combinations therein. This may be attributed to that the conventional medicines are not able to reach in a sufficient concentration in the liver tumor cells at levels that are not harmful to the rest of the body. Considering the large percentage of patients that are deemed ineligible to undergo conventional curative interventions, it is highly important to develop alternative drug treatment options that are able to target the tumor tissues, without inducing toxicity in other parts of the body.
Now a team of scientists, led by Prof. Taeghwan Hyeon at the Institute for Basic Science (IBS)/Seoul National University and Prof. Kam Man Hui at the National Cancer Center Singapore, has screened a library containing hundreds of natural products against a panel of HCC cells to search a better drug candidate. The screen uncovered a compound named triptolide, a traditional Chinese medicine isolated from the thunder god vine (Tripterygium wilfordii (Latin) or lei gong teng (Chinese)) which was found to be far more potent than current therapies. Studies from other researchers corroborate our findings as triptolide has also found to be very effective against several other malignant cancers including; pancreatic, neuroblastoma and cholangiocarcinoma. However this excitement was tempered when the drug was administered to mice as the increased potency was coupled with increased toxicity as well.
Maximizing potency, mitigating toxicity
Prof. Hyeon et al. endeavoured to alleviate the toxic burden by increasing the specific delivery of the drug to the tumor using a nanoformulation. The designed formulation was a pH-sensitive nanogel coated with the nucleotide precursor, folate. The researchers began by esterfying the polymer pluronic F127 with folate to make the coating material. They then polymerized β-benzyl-L-aspartate N-carboxy anhydride to make the core material pH-sensitive due to repulsive forces upon protonation under acidic conditions. “The combination of the two polymers forms a core/shell structured nanoparticle in water,” explains Prof. Hyeon. “We loaded triptolide into the hydrophobic core to produce a kind of drug-nanogel.”