Much attention has been paid to the possibilities of nanotechnology in the field of drug delivery. In the case of cancer, nanotechnology could be very effective, as it could give the researchers the possibility of creating drugs which could go directly to the cells which have been affected by the disease. If the researchers could develop such drugs, then the doctors might consider giving up to chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy, unlike these possible drugs sends the anticancer chemicals throughout the whole body and as a result the healthy cells are affected as well. Because of that, the patients suffer from various side effects including nausea, feeling weak; they lose hair, and so on.
The researchers from UCLA performed various tests on the mice which have tumors that can also be found in the human body. They have discovered that mesoporous silica nanoparticles (MSNs) can be used in the case of mice in order to attack only the tumor, without affecting the healthy cells. The results have been promising, as the drugs have managed to suppress the tumors in the mice. The tests revealed that the particles from the drugs go directly to the tumor, and that once the chemotherapeutical drugs have been delivered in the tumor, the other chemicals which are present in the drug, are released from the body, without affecting other cells. The scientists believe that the drugs could have the same effect in the case of humans as well, but various tests need to be made before the drug might be tested on people. Fuyu Tamanoi and Jeffrey Zink, both of them being professors at UCLA, have been involved in the experiment. The one in charge with the research was Jie Lu.
They have discovered that the chemicals released by the drug stay in the body for a relative long period of time. They circulate via the blood streams and they go to the cells infected by cancer. The researchers mentioned that the effect of the drug could be enhanced. They plan to attach a targeting moiety to the mesoporous silica nanoparticles in order to make a bigger percentage of the chemicals to go towards the tumor. The mice which were included in the experiments had xenograft tumors, and the drugs proved to be very effected, as they successfully shrunk the tumors. The scientists even observed regression in the case of some tumors. At the end of the treatment, the tumors from the mice were completely absent. The effects of the chemicals were not present, because the mice eliminated the remaining nanoparticles through feces and urine. The results proved to be similar in the case of other cancers as well. Tamanoi mentioned that this is the first study of its kind, and that they have revealed the fact that the mesoporous silica nanoparticles could really work in the case of the tumors.
Lu mentioned that the MSNs are very useful because they go directly to the tumors, which does not happen in the case of other methods which are used against cancer, and also because the chemicals do not remain in the body after they have done their job. The MSNs are being modified by the researchers from the Nano Machine Center for Targeted Delivery and On-Demand Release. They have added nanovalves at the opening of the pores which have the task of controlling the release of anticancer drugs. One of the scientists mentioned that this is extremely useful because they can set the MSNs to release the chemicals at a lower intensity, which would increase the effects of the drugs. The drugs can easily be modified, which can give the scientists the possibility of changing several of their aspects. The scientists could modify them whatever they would like, and constantly improve them in order to get the best results from them.
The team wants to see the effects of the mesoporous silica nanoparticles on various animals and to see if they are safe to use in other beings besides the mice. They are also working on ways of making the drugs much safer, as they hope that one day they might be able to use the drugs on humans.