There are many options available to patients regarding their cancer treatment, including radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery. Charities such as Cancer Research UK raise money to fund the development of technology, develop our understanding of the condition and discover how to treat it. Many patients require chemotherapy for their treatment and although it saves lives, the side effects are slightlyundesirable. Nanoparticles have been introduced for a short time as they are programmed to only target affected areas, and up until now they have been able to release one or two different forms of medication to treat the cancer. New developments have led to a nanoparticle being produced with three different types of medication within it. This will aim to save many more lives and reduce the effects of chemotherapy.
Nanoparticles are particles which have a diameter in the order of nano-metres, which is 0.000000001 metres. They have many uses and many of them are medicinal, including using them as sensors for pulses in our nervous system, as well as dispensing medication within the body. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology have been working with nanoparticles for the use of treating cancer, and have had many successes. These nanoparticles are perfect for administering doses of important medicines to the required areas, as they are programmed according to patients’ requirements. Previously, a way was found to load nanoparticles with up to two different substances, which have their own trigger mechanisms for each substance. This would mean though that the patient would need to undergo treatment many times to have all the medication that they require for their chemotherapy.
Scientists have found a way to load these nanoparticles with three and possibly more substances at once, and this method is now in the testing stage. There was a huge difference in the way that the particles were manufactured before. With only two different drugs, one substance could be encapsulated by the particles and the other one would lie on the surface. For three or more substances to be used at once within single particles there needed to be a completely new design. For an increased number of substances, the different drugs were formed within the building blocks of the particle in specific amounts and then built up into the full nanoparticle. There are three components in each of these building blocks: the medicine, the connector – which allows them to stay in position and linked to their neighbours – and polyethylene glycol (PEG), which keeps the particle from being destroyed within the body and acts as a protective shield. The nanoparticles are programmed so that each substance has its own trigger system. They are only administered at the required time and into designated cells in an area of the body. This will alter the experience of having chemotherapy completely, as the side effects would be reduced substantially. This would also mean that other cells that are unaffected by the cancer are left untouched.
Although the substances used in the trial are best used to treat ovarian cancer, the same technique could be used for all types of cancer, using chemotherapy drugs which work in unison for the best results, and also for other conditions which require similar treatment. The efforts by doctors and scientists to try and find the best way to treat cancer are constantly ongoing, and with more money being raised by charities and more funding from the government, the use of these resources can now be a reality. With a more detailed understanding will come a huge opportunity to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and help treat cancer in a less obtrusive way.
What are the future uses of nanoparticles within cancer treatment and the medical field?