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A technique to deliver cancer drugs to diseased areas within hours instead of days is being developed at Case Western Reserve University in the US.
Tests using mice are discussed in a paper appearing in the current edition of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
The drug delivery system uses a gold nanoparticle (Au NP) as its hub. Gold is non-toxic to the human body, and has a versatile surface chemistry, large surface-to-volume ratio and variable size and shape.
Each Au NP is coated with polyethylene glycol (PEG) ligands. These offer several advantages over other materials: they are soluble in fats and water, don’t interact with proteins in the bloodstream and help protect the drug, keeping it safe and stable until delivery to the cancer site.
Between each PEG ligand, molecules of a photodynamic chemotherapy drug (Pc 4) are attached to the Au NP. The Pc 4 drug (a phthalocyanine compound) was developed at Case Western Reserve by Malcolm Kenney, professor of chemistry.
When the nanoparticle reaches the cancerous tissue the drug molecules are released and uploaded to the diseased area. Focused red light is used to energise the drug in the patient once it has been delivered to the tumour.
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