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Researchers Testing New Drug Delivery System for Mesothelioma

A diagnosis of cancer is always cause for concern, and usually spurs immediate action, but few cancers arouse a need for urgency in the way that mesothelioma does. Mesothelioma is a rare and always fatal form of cancer that attacks the cells lining the lungs or the thoracic region. It is caused by exposure to asbestos fibers, which become embedded in the cells, causing cell death and mutations that eventually grow into tumors. Mesothelioma is unique in that this process evolves over a period of decades before patients begin to show symptoms. As a result, once the disease state is detectable there is usually little time for treatment.

In addition to searching for novel drugs and treatment protocols that will work to arrest the spread of the cancer and kill its cells, researchers are also urgently seeking better delivery systems for the drugs that they have found to be effective. Researchers in a joint biomedical engineering program at NC State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recently announced that they have developed a new delivery mechanism that has been referred to as a sort of magic carpet ride that sends a combination of anti-cancer drugs directly where they need to be.

Dr. Zhen Gu, senior author of the report which describes the work, describes the mechanism as a grapheme strip that is just a single atom thick but which carries the drugs to both the external membrane of the cancer cell and to the nucleus. “These drug-rich grapheme strips are introduced into the bloodstream in solution, and then travel through the bloodstream like nanoscale flying carpets.” The group’s research utilized the two-dimensional sheets of carbon to deliver both TRAIL, an anticancer protein, and doxorubicin, a platinum-based drug. The system means that both drugs hit each cancer cell one by one, targeting the locations that have the potential for the greatest damage. The drug delivery reaches the tumors through a network of existing broken blood vessels, receptors and enzymes, causing the drugs to be quickly absorbed so that they can go to work and kill the cancer cells.

The tests showed that the system was “significantly more effective than Dox (doxorubicin) or TRAIL by themselves.”

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an independent writer, editor and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Her dreams of a writing career were diverted by a need to pay her bills. She spent a few years providing copy for a major retailer, then landed a lucrative career in advertising sales. With college bills for all three of her kids paid, she left corporate America for a return to her original goal of writing. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of interest include health and fitness, medical research, and the law.

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