Nanoparticle delivery system may improve breast cancer outcomes

Scientists discover peptide with potential to treat triple negative breast cancer, the most aggressive form of breast cancer.
By Amy Wallace   |   March 16, 2017 at 11:17 AM
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March 16 (UPI) -- Researchers at the University of Bradford in England developed a new drug delivery system using nanoparticles to combat an aggressive form of breast cancer.

The team at the University of Bradford identified a peptide that in computer models has shown the ability to block the RAN protein, which helps cancer cells divide and grow.

High levels of RAN are responsible for aggressive tumor growth, metastasis, therapy resistance and poor prognosis such as triple negative breast cancer, the most aggressive form of the disease. Approximately 10 to 20 percent of all breast cancers are triple negative, meaning the cancer does not have receptors for estrogen, progesterone or the protein HER2, limiting the types of treatments that can be used.

"We knew we'd need a novel delivery mechanism for this drug because peptides on their own are unstable and they can degrade too quickly to be effective," Professor Mohamed El-Tanani at the University of Bradford's Institute for Cancer Therapeutics, said in a press release. "Using a nanoparticle as a delivery mechanism was the perfect solution."

Researchers developed a nanoparticle from a biodegradable polymer to encapsulate and protect the peptide for safe delivery to the cancer cells.

Tests showed the nanoparticle containing the peptide was able to be taken in by triple negative breast cancer cells resulting in a slowed down growth rate. The cells also stopped dividing and roughly two-thirds of the cells died within 24 hours.

"By developing a nanoparticle that can help this peptide enter triple negative breast cancer cells and block RAN we've brought this potential new treatment a step closer to the clinic," El-Tanani said. "We're already working on in vivo tests of the nanoparticle in a triple negative breast cancer model and are thinking ahead to taking this drug into clinical trials."

The study was published in the International Journal of Pharmaceutics.

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