Researchers at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology, South Korea, have presented a novel targeted delivery method that can significantly improve the pharmacological and therapeutic abilities of conventional cancer treatments. This approach is based on the use of a new supramolecule, superior in efficiency and safety.
While the concept is not new – creating a vehicle that selectively transports drugs to targeted tissues, organs, and cells, actually translating it into real applications has been somewhat difficult. One of the biggest issues remains interference from the hundreds of proteins in the body that can stick to the drug delivery system (protein corona phenomenon). This leads to significant reductions in performance even if the drug reaches the target, such as a cancer cell, and can produce a number of other undesirable side effects.
“It was reported that it is possible to alleviate the impact of protein corona on target drug delivery through the formation of protective shield, made up of well-structured special proteins that are highly stable and do not interact with each other”, noted lead investigator Professor Ja-Hyoung Ryu. “The new technology is much like the strategy where you take control of your enemies, using enemies”.
By using recombinant DNA technology, the team managed to design recombinant fusion proteins with increased physical stability and cancer-selective targeting abilities. Drug-carrying molecules were then encapsulated inside these proteins, resulting in protein corona shield nanoparticles (PCSNs).
These PCSNs can inhibit blood protein absorption, meaning they can avoid unwanted interference from the mononuclear phagocyte system. Laboratory tests in environments simulating human biological systems showed about 10 times greater therapeutic efficacy in preventing the invasion of unwanted external proteins.
Experiments reported that the PCS drug method could kill cancer cells without being caught by immune cells, even after long-term exposure to biological environments. Mouse models exhibited lower toxicity and excellent tumor targeting capability.
“Aside from treating cancer, our findings can also be applied to a variety of fields, such as the diagnosis and treatment of various diseases, as well as the heat-optical therapy”, revealed Professor Ryu. “We plan to introduce a platform that will perform various roles while differently designing recombinant proteins in the future”.
Having a safe and precise approach that can take drugs directly inside the tumor could help reduce side effects of current therapies and offer patients improved care as well as better chances of defeating their disease.
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