Pristine nanotubes produced through a new process developed at
The nanotubes may then target and infiltrate the cancerous cells' nuclei, where the drugs can be released through sonication - that is, by shaking them.
The research led by
Most pancreatic cancer patients die within a year of diagnosis and have a five-year survival rate of 6 percent, partially because there is no method for early detection, according to the
"These findings are encouraging because they offer a potential delivery solution for pancreatic cancer patients whose tumors resist standard chemotherapy," Fleming said. "There are molecular and biological barriers to efficient delivery of chemotherapy to pancreatic cancer tumors, and these nanotubes might be able to make some of those irrelevant."
"This time, we were trying to work out how long the tubes should be and the extent of functionalization to maximize uptake by the cells," Barron said.
Several discoveries were key, he said. First,
The next step was to cut the nanotubes down to size. Very long nanotubes are floppy and hard to deal with, Barron said.
"Instead of ending up with a fluffy nanotube powder, we get something that looks like a hockey puck," Barron said. "It's not dense - it looks like a spongy puck - but you can cut it with a razor blade. You can weigh it and do accurate chemistry with it."
Barron's lab added polyethyleneimine (PEI) to the nanotube surfaces. In lab tests, the modified tubes were easily dispersed in liquid and able to pass through barriers into live cancer cells to infiltrate the nuclei. A small-molecule variant of PEI proved to be less toxic to cells than larger versions, Barron said.
"This research shows that the particles are small enough to get inside cells where you like them to be and that they may have an increased killing advantage - but that's still unknown," Fleming said.
Fleming, whose work focuses on improving drug delivery for pancreatic cancer, cautioned that more research is required. "The next step will be to test this approach in mice that have allografts taken from human tumors," he said. "The architecture of these tumors will more closely resemble that of human pancreatic cancer."
Keywords for this news article include: Chemicals, Chemistry, Nanotechnology,
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