Coming up with new drug delivery vehicles that can precisely target cancer cells, while leaving healthy tissue unmolested, has been a big goal in certain scientific circles in recent years. Now researchers at the University of Manchester say they have been toying with a fresh approach that relies on liposomes.
It's not the first time these tiny, bubble-shaped structures have been used in drug delivery experiments. But the team says that they achieved their sought-after goal of using the liposomes to smuggle cancer drugs into cancer cells and then triggering their "grenades" by heating up the targeted tumors.
The researchers tested this approach on tumors in the lab as well as mouse models for cancer, and they say that the liposomes could safely maneuver through the body without damaging healthy cells. And there are various methods that could be used to amp up the temperature of cancer cells.
"The thermal trigger is set to 42 degrees Celsius, which is just a few degrees warmer than normal body temperature," says Kostas Kostarelos, study author and professor of nanomedicine at the University of Manchester. "Although this work has only been done in the lab so far, there are a number of ways we could potentially heat cancer cells in patients--depending on the tumor type--some of which are already in clinical use."
The studies were presented at the National Cancer Research Institute Cancer Conference in Liverpool.
"Liposomes are small bubbles of cell membrane that act like a cellular postal service, delivering molecules to our cells," noted Professor Charles Swanton, chair of the 2015 NCRI Cancer Conference. "Using them to deliver cancer medicines has been a holy grail of nanomedicine. But finding ways to accurately direct the liposomes towards tumors has been a major challenge in targeted drug delivery."
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