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New study: crustacean-derived nanoparticles may effectively and precisely deliver chemotherapy

Nanoparticles packed with a clinically used chemotherapy drug and coated with an oligosaccharide derived from crustacean exoskeletons might effectively target and kill cancer stem-like cells, according to a recent study led by principal investigator Xiaoming (Shawn) He, PhD, associate professor of Biomedical Engineering.

Cancer stem-like cells have characteristics of stem cells and are present in very low numbers in tumors. They are highly resistant to chemotherapy and radiation and are believed to play an important role in tumor recurrence. This laboratory and animal study showed that nanoparticles coated with the oligosaccharide called chitosan and encapsulating the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin can target and kill cancer stem-like cells six times more effectively than free doxorubicin.

Biomedical Engineering Assoc. Prof. Shawn He (left) and Pelotonia Postoc Fellow Hai Wang discuss chitosan-coated doxorubicin in their Biomedical Research Tower lab.The study is reported in the journal ACS Nano. It received "top story" recognition in the May 27 issue of Cancer Stem Cell News and in the American Chemical Society News Service weekly PressPac on June 10

“Our findings indicate that this nanoparticle delivery system increases the cytotoxicity of doxorubicin with no evidence of systemic toxic side effects in our animal model,” said He, who is also a research member of The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute.

“We believe that chitosan-decorated nanoparticles could also encapsulate other types of chemotherapy and be used to treat many types of cancer.

This study showed that chitosan binds with a receptor on cancer stem-like cells called CD44, enabling the nanoparticles to target the malignant stem-like cells in a tumor.

The nanoparticles were engineered to shrink, break open, and release the anticancer drug under the acidic conditions of the tumor microenvironment and in tumor-cell endosomes and lysosomes, which cells use to digest nutrients acquired from their microenvironment.

He and his colleagues conducted the study using models called 3D mammary tumor spheroids (i.e., mammospheres) and an animal model of human breast cancer.

The study also found that although the drug-carrying nanoparticles could bind to the variant CD44 receptors on cancerous mammosphere cells, they did not bind well to the CD44 receptors that were overexpressed on noncancerous stem cells.

Funding from an American Cancer Society Research Scholar Grant (No. 120936-RSG- 11-109-01-CDD) and a Pelotonia postdoctoral fellowship supported this research.

Other researchers involved in this study were Wei Rao, Hai Wang, Jianfeng Han, Shuting Zhao, Jenna Dumbleton, Pranay Agarwal, Jianhua Yu and Debra L. Zynger of Ohio State; Wujie Zhang of Milwaukee School of Engineering; Gang Zhao of University of Science and Technology of China; and Xiongbin Lu of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

contributed by Darrell E. Ward, Wexner Medical Center Public Affairs and Media Relations