Misshapen chemo drug particles may be better at targeting breast cancer

Rod-shaped chemotherapy drug nanoparticles binding to receptors on cancer cells.--Courtesy of Peter Allen, UCSB

By warping the shape of chemotherapy nanoparticles, researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, found them to be up to 1,000 times more effective at zeroing in on breast cancer cells.

The scientists looked to human breast cancer cells to determine how shape works in cooperation with molecular recognition to perform complex tasks within the human body. They found that changing the anticancer drug particles from spherical to rod-shaped increased their ability to target and inhibit breast cancer cells.

The research could help scientists develop more effective anticancer drugs with fewer harsh side effects than current chemotherapy treatments.

"Conventional anticancer drugs accumulate in the liver, lungs and spleen instead of the cancer cell site due to inefficient interactions with the cancer cell membrane," said Samir Mitragotri, UCSB professor of chemical engineering and director of the Center for BioEngineering, in a statement. "We have found our strategy greatly enhances the specificity of anticancer drugs to cancer cells."

Scientists engineered the new therapy by creating rod-shaped nanoparticles of the chemotherapeutic drug, camptothecin. Then, they coated the particles with an antibody most commonly used to treat breast cancer, called trastuzumab. According to the research article, the investigators found that the antibody-coated camptothecin nanorods were 1,000 times more effective than trastuzumab by itself and 10 times more effective than camptothecin alone at inhibiting breast cancer cell growth.

The findings were published recently in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

- here's the UCSB press release
- get the abstract