April 30, 2009

Can Carbon Nanotubes Help "Silence" Lung Cancer?

New research conducted at The School of Pharmacy has found that carbon-nanotube-based delivery systems may have a significant impact in the fight against lung cancer. A team from the Nanomedicine Lab, Centre for Drug Delivery Research in collaboration with Alberto Bianco from the CNRS in Strasbourg, France and Maurizio Prato at the University of Trieste in Italy have demonstrated that carbon nanotubes can be used to achieve therapeutic gene silencing in human lung carcinoma, leading to significant suppression of tumor volume, collapse of the tumor mass and, most importantly, prolonged survival of tumor-bearing animals.

This therapeutic outcome is achieved by using carbon nanotubes to deliver small interfering RNA (siRNA) directly into the tumor mass. A number of ongoing clinical trials investigating the therapeutic efficacy of siRNA to silence, that is, "switch off", unwanted genes in a variety of diseases are currently underway. Most of these trials use "naked" siRNA, that is, in the absence of any delivery system. The resulting uptake of the siRNA by the diseased cells is inefficient and the development of effective delivery systems has become of paramount importance.In this study, siRNA is used to switch off genes and trigger death of cancer cells by comparing the performance of two possible siRNA delivery systems – carbon nanotubes and liposomes.

The new study, to be published later this month in issue 10 of Small, shows that weekly injections using carbon nanotubes to cargo siRNA into the cancer cells elicits a therapeutic effect."There is a lot of promise and buzz around nanosystems used to transport drugs effectively where wanted, with only a few examples of therapeutic efficacy’’, says Professor Kostarelos of the School of Pharmacy, University of London, and Chair of Nanomedicine. ‘We are glad to see carbon nanotubes able to offer alternatives for effective delivery of powerful therapeutic agents, such as siRNA, and result in prolonged survival of animals bearing human lung cancer cells. This is the first time carbon-nanotube-based delivery systems have achieved efficacy levels leading to prolonged survival for any disease model. This study should be just the beginning since there is more to come from the use of novel nanomaterials against cancer’’.

[Browse more news]