KOZHIKODE: A group of researchers, including a Malayali, in the US, has developed a technology to deliver cancer drugs straight into tumour cells using body’s own cells without damaging healthy cells. The study, conducted on human lung cells, holds the key to better drug delivery system for cancer patients using exosomes – tiny bubbles of protein and fat produced naturally by cells. The researchers found that the drug combined with gold nanoparticles and loaded in exosomes allow a slow and controlled release of the drug in response to acidic conditions specific to the tumour.
The study was featured in the Nature Scientific Reports, a top peer-reviewed scientific journal. Dr Anish Babu, who is from Thodupuzha and currently pursuing cancer research at Stephenson Cancer Center of the University of Oklahoma, was part of the team and a co-author. Dr Akhil Srivastava, who is from Kanpur, is the lead author. “We have found that exosomes can transport drug molecules preferentially to lung cancer cells. The existing drug delivery systems are synthetic in origin, and drug delivery system can cause an immune response, uncontrolled drug release, and rapid clearance of the injected drug from the body resulting in reduced efficiency of the drug.
“However, the exosome-based strategy has the potential to enhance the protection of the drug from premature release, avoid immune response and rapid clearance from the body, increase drug accumulation in cancer cells and spare healthy cells from the drug toxicity,” said Dr Babu. “Our study brings us closer to harness the potential of these cellular bubbles for efficient and safe drug delivery for cancer treatment,” says Dr Srivastava. The team of the researchers is led by Dr Rajagopal Ramesh, professor of pathology at Stephenson Cancer Center.
“Current researches using exosomes have problems like poor drug-loading and fast release of the drug. We have achieved better-controlled delivery and enhanced efficiency,” added Dr Srivastava. “It is an inspiring work in cancer research. The study is in first stages, and if the researchers are able to reach the final stages, then it would be an achievement. Also, the efficiency of the clinical trials will be time bound as several novel ways are coming up to treat cancer,” opined Dr Narayanankutty Warrier, a top oncologist and the medical director of MVR Cancer Centre and Research Institute here.