September 16, 2008

Nanoparticles Used to Shrink Cancer Genes

U.S. cancer researchers say nanoparticles filled with a drug targeting two genes that trigger melanoma might offer a potential cure for the deadly disease.

Penn State University College of Medicine scientists said such treatment would provide a safer and more effective way of targeting cancer-causing genes in cancer cells without harming normal tissue.

"It is a very selective and targeted approach," said Associate Professor Gavin Robertson, who led the study. "And unlike most other cancer drugs that inadvertently affect a bunch of proteins, we are able to knock out single genes."

Robertson and his team engineered hollow nano-sized particles -- nanoliposomes -- from globes of fatty acids and filled them with specific anti-cancer drugs. Next, the researchers used a portable ultrasound device to temporarily create microscopic holes in the surface of the skin, allowing the drug-filled particles to leak into tumor cells beneath.

"Think of it as tiny basketballs that Â… fall through the holes created by the ultrasound," said Robertson. The nanoliposomes are taken up by the tumor cells, thereby delivering the drug.

The study appears in the journal Cancer Research.