Nanoparticles and Light

Source: Wenjing Wu

Designing drugs that attack only tumor cells but not healthy cells is complicated.

Xuequan Zhou, a PhD student from Leiden University, created an anticancer compound with a molecule that can self-organize in nanoparticles and become activated only under blue light irradiation. The new properties allow the drug to be activated only when needed and thus could be instrumental in killing cancer cells without damaging healthy cells. The research team conducted experiments in vitro and also in vivo using a mouse tumor model. The article is published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Along similar lines, a team from Penn State University developed light-activated nanoparticles to target cancer cells. The nanoparticles can bind with microRNA (miRNA) molecules, and those can be released in the cancer cells when exposed to light, thus sparing healthy tissue. The miRNA molecules will then pair to a messenger mRNA and inhibit proteins’ production essential for cancer cells’ survival. The paper is published in Biomaterials.


Exercise for Reducing Cancer Death Risk, Vitamin D for Immunotherapy Enhancement and More

  • Researchers from several academic institutions in the U.S. conducted a prospective cohort study on the impact of physical activity on cancer. It demonstrated that physical inactivity, or a greater sedentary lifestyle, was associated with higher (up to 82%) cancer mortality. At the same time, a moderate intensity exercise reduced the risk of cancer death by 31%. The study was published in Lancet Oncology.
  • Colitis is a known digestive tract side effect of immunotherapy in cancer treatment. A new study by U.S. researchers established that vitamin D supplementation before starting cancer treatment reduced the risk of developing colitis in patients treated with immune checkpoint inhibitors by 65%. This study was published in Cancer. 
  • A novel formulation of an existing drug abiraterone acetate used for prostate cancer (currently available as a commercial product Zytiga) can make a significant impact on the quality of life of patients treated with it. Australian scientists enhanced the drug’s properties “by using oils to mimic pharmaceutical food effects,” leading to fewer side effects and smaller doses needed for treatment. This preclinical study was published in the International Journal of Pharmaceuticals.
  • Scientists from Europe established that “targeting cancer’s ability to process fat” by using a combination of a new class of drugs called cPLA2 inhibitors and a fat free diet makes cancers less reliant on fat for their growth and spread. This animal study was published in Cell

Research in Genetics to Help with Cancer Treatment Decisions

A new study by researchers from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center found that patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer who had germline or somatic mutations in DNA repair genes responded better to platinum-based chemotherapy compared to patients without those mutations. The study was published in Clinical Cancer Research. Dr. O’Reilly, senior author on the study, pointed out that “The results underscore the importance of genetic testing in newly diagnosed patients to help refine treatment decisions.”

Another genetic study demonstrated for the first time that not only genetic mutations but pre-existing genetics can promote metastatic cancer spread. The research led by a team from Rockefeller University was published in Nature Medicine.