The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology’s (KAIST’s) Department of Bio and Brain Engineering Professor Ji-Ho Park and his team in South Korea has successfully developed a new, highly efficacious anti-cancer nanotechnology by delivering anti-cancer drugs uniformly to an entire tumor via exosomes. Their research results were published online in Nano Letters on March 31, 2015. To treat inoperable tumors, anti-cancer medicine is commonly used. However, efficient drug delivery to tumor cells is often difficult, treating an entire tumor with drugs even more so. Using the existing drug delivery systems, including nanotechnology, a drug can be delivered only to tumor cells near blood vessels, leaving cells at the heart of a tumor intact. Because most drugs are injected into the bloodstream, tumor recurrence post medication is frequent. Therefore, the team used liposomes that can fuse to the cell membrane and enter the cell. Once inside liposomes the drug can travel into the bloodstream, enter tumor cells near blood vessels, where they are loaded to exosomes, which are naturally occurring nanoparticles in the body. Because exosomes can travel between cells, the drug can be delivered efficiently into inner cells of the tumor. Exosomes, which are secreted by cells that exist in the tumor microenvironment, are known to have an important role in tumor progression and metastasis because they transfer biological materials between cells. The research team started the investigation recognizing the possibility of delivering the anti-cancer drug to the entire tumor using exosomes. The team injected the light-sensitive, anti-cancer drug using their new delivery technique into experimental mice. The researchers applied light to the tumor site to activate the anti-cancer treatment and analyzed a tissue sample.
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