Researchers Develop First Aptamer-Liposome Delivery System

August 20, 2009
Pharmaceutical Technology Editors

ePT--the Electronic Newsletter of Pharmaceutical Technology

Researchers at the University of Illinois (Champaign) have developed a cancer drug delivery system that reportedly kills target tumor cells, spars healthy cells, and has effects that can be reversed to halt potentially hazardous side effects.

Researchers at the University of Illinois (Champaign) have developed a cancer-drug delivery system that reportedly kills target tumor cells, spares healthy cells, and has effects that can be reversed to halt potentially hazardous side effects. What makes the delivery system unique is that instead of using antibodies to bind to cancer-cell receptors, the team isolated aptamers (i.e., short strands of DNA or RNA) that effectively bind to nucleolin receptors (which are found on breast cancer cells, thus creating a unique delivery system).

After isolating the aptamers, the research team, led by chemistry professor Yi Li, developed a method for attaching them to a liposome containing cisplatin, a drug that kills cancer cells but also leads to uncomfortable side effects. Aptamers can be disabled, thus preventing them from interacting with cell receptors, by binding then to complementary DNA.

“This is the first study to integrate the aptamers and the liposome” said Jianjun Cheng, a principal investigator on the study, in a university press release. “This approach integrates the advantages of small molecules and antibodies.”

So far, the method has been proven only in cell culture, but the team anticipates that it can be used to fight other cancers by changing the therapeutic drug and using different aptamers specific for binding to the relative receptors.

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