Nanoparticles offer a promising way to deliver cancer drugs in a targeted fashion, helping to kill tumors while sparing healthy tissue. However, most nanoparticles that have been developed so far are limited to carrying only one or two drugs. MIT chemists have now shown that they can package three or more drugs into a novel type of nanoparticle, allowing them to design custom combination therapies for cancer. In tests in mice, the researchers showed that the particles could successfully deliver three chemotherapy drugs and shrink tumors. In the same study, which appears in the September 14, 2014 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the researchers also showed that when drugs are delivered by nanoparticles, they do not necessarily work by the same DNA-damaging mechanism as when delivered in their traditional form. That is significant because most scientists usually assume that nanoparticle drugs are working the same way as the original drugs, says Jeremiah Johnson, Ph.D., the Firmenich Career Development Associate Professor of Chemistry and the senior author of the paper. Even if the nanoparticle version of the drug still kills cancer cells, it’s important to know the underlying mechanism of action when choosing combination therapies and seeking regulatory approval of new drugs, he says. “People tend to take it as a given that when you put a drug into a nanoparticle it’s the same drug, just in a nanoparticle,” Dr. Johnson says. “Here, in collaboration with Mike Hemann, we conducted detailed characterization using an RNA interference assay that Mike developed to make sure the drug is still hitting the same target in the cell and doing everything that it would if it weren’t in a nanoparticle.” The paper’s lead authors are Dr.
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