The Innovative chemotherapy that leaves no traces


Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have engineered anticancer nanoparticles capable of delivering an innovative chemotherapy drug and immunotherapy. The new approach silences a gene that researchers have found to be involved in the immunosuppression brought about by drugs used in cancer treatments. Additionally, the combination therapy with an existing chemotherapy drug shrank colon and pancreatic cancer tumors.


Nanoparticles are usually too large to pass through intact blood vessels in healthy tissue, but in tumors, the vessels are sometimes underdeveloped and have holes that allow them to pass. But this tumor-targeting approach is limited, as many human tumors do not have holes large enough for nanoparticles to pass through. With this awareness, the researchers developed their approach: “Like a ferrythat carries people across the river, we wanted to develop a mechanism that would allow nanoparticles to pass through intact blood vessels without relying on holes,” said Song Li, professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the Pitt School of Pharmacy. To develop this type of ‘ferry’, the researchers equipped the surface of the nanoparticles with specific compounds that help the nanoparticles target tumors and avoid healthy tissue by binding to cell receptors common to both tumor blood vessels and cancer cells.

The first clinical trials were carried out on mice and the results showed that about 10% of the nanoparticles reached the tumour, on average only 0.7% of the nanoparticle doses reached the target.

With the aim of translating their new discovery into real clinical therapies, the team is now looking to validate the results obtained with further experiments and to further evaluate the potential side effects.


Targeting Xkr8 via nanoparticle-mediated in situ co-delivery of siRNA and chemotherapy drugs for cancer immunochemotherapy. (





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