Malignant mesothelioma is one of several types of cancer that have proven particularly resistant to traditional cancer treatments, presenting significant challenges to physicians and leading to tragically short life expectancies after diagnosis. But a group of researchers from the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have devised a novel approach that may hold the key to improved responses in these intransigent conditions.
Nanoparticles May Lead to Mesothelioma Cells Self Destructing
The researchers’ creation is being referred to as a “Trojan horse” that delivers a nanoparticle known to cause the self-destruction of cells in cancers like mesothelioma, breast cancer, and other deadly malignancies. The nanoparticle is coated with L-phenylalanine, an essential amino acid that cancer cells rely upon to survive and grow.
Because mesothelioma cells and others are so dependent on the amino acid, the researchers used it to coat an ultrasmall silica nanoparticle called “Nanoscopic phenylalanine Porous Amino Acid Mimic,” or Nano-pPAAM, that measures 30,000 times smaller than a strand of human hair. While the L-phenylalanine coating helps the nanoparticle gain entry into the cells via an amino acid transporter cell, once inside the nanoparticle causes a reactive oxygen species production that causes cancer cells to self-destruct while not doing the same to healthy cells.
Simplified Process Relies on Intrinsic Anti-Cancer Properties of Nanoparticles
While nanoparticles have been investigated in previous mesothelioma research, lead author Dalton Tay, who is an Assistant Professor from the School of Materials Science and Engineering, says that in this latest study a different approach is being taken. “Against conventional wisdom, our approach involved using the nanomaterial as a drug instead as a drug-carrier. Here, the cancer-selective and killing properties of Nano-pPAAM are intrinsic and do not need to be ‘activated’ by any external stimuli. The amino acid L-phenylalanine acts as a ‘trojan horse’ – a cloak to mask the nanotherapeutic on the inside.”
The researchers say that their next step is to create a method of targeting the technology to specific cancer types like mesothelioma, but point to the simplified process that their Trojan Horse technology represents. “By removing the drug component, we have effectively simplified the nanomedicine formulation and may overcome the numerous technological hurdles that are hindering the bench-to-bedside translation of drug-based nanomedicine.”
Scientists are working round-the-clock to identify effective treatments for mesothelioma. For assistance in connecting with facilities offering innovative treatments, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net today at 1-800-692-8608.