Researchers have developed cancer drug-packed ‘grenades‘ armed with heat sensitive triggers, allowing for treatment to be targeted directly at tumours.
The “grenades” are actually liposomes — small, bubble-like structures built out of cell membrane — and they’re used as packages to deliver drugs into the cancer cells. The challenge the researchers faced was being able to target tumors with the cancer drug-carrying liposomes, while also keeping healthy tissue intact.
The two studies show how the team managed to clear this hurdle by giving the liposomes heat-activated triggers. Testing the liposomes in a cell culture and lab mice, the team found that by slightly heating the tumors with warm water baths and heating pads, it was able to pinpoint the exact place where cancer resided — the “grenades” could then detonate and release the drugs.
The team based at the University of Manchester has been developing liposomes – small, bubble-like structures built out of cell membrane that are used as packages to deliver molecules into cells – to carry drugs into cancer cells.
The challenge, as with any treatment, is to direct the liposomes and their payload directly to tumours while sparing healthy tissue.
Two new studies show the team has taken a step closer to solving this problem by fitting liposomes with a heat-activated trigger.
By slightly heating tumours in the lab and in mouse models, the researchers have been able to control when the pin is pulled so that the cancer-killing ‘grenades’ release the drug and target the cancer.
Temperature-sensitive liposomes have the potential to travel safely around the body while carrying your cancer drug of choice. Once they reach a ‘hotspot’ of warmed-up cancer cells, the pin is effectively pulled and the drugs are released. This allows us to more effectively transport drugs to tumours, and should reduce collateral damage to healthy cells.
These studies demonstrate for the first time how they can be built to include a temperature control, which could open up a range of new treatment avenues.
This is still early work but these liposomes could be an effective way of targeting treatment towards cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed.