David vs Goliath - Nanoparticles and cancer defeat

Cancer therapy is a  major goal of DIRNANO.

Nanotechnology is gaining significant attention for cancer treatment worldwide. This technology encourages the combination of diagnostics and therapeutics in personalized medicine, one of the major current focuses to deal with malignancies. The unique characteristics of nanoparticles (NPs), i.e. their high surface to volume ratio, enables them to tie, absorb, and carry small biomolecules such as DNA, RNA, proteins, antibodies, drugs, and other molecules to targeted sites, thus enhancing the efficacy of therapeutics agents while greatly reducing toxicity.

Nanoparticles can be presented in many different formats:

liposomes, polymeric NPs, polymeric micelles, dendrimers, carbon NPs, nanodiamonds, fullerenes, carbonnanotubes, graphene oxide (GO), GO nanocomposites, and metallic NPs, among others. Interestingly, each formulation has specific behaviors when exposed to living cells and tissues and they need to be fully characterized.

Some of the major issues in the treatment of cancer are multidrug resistance, narrow therapeutic windows, undesired side effects of available anticancer drugs, and the limitations of current anticancer drugs. NPs can play a major role in providing new approaches to al these fields.

A particular field where NPs are indispensable is phototherapy, a technique that uses magnetic NPs to reach the tumor and there, upon external illumination, they liberate phototherapeutic agents, which generate heat or cytotoxic reactive oxygen species to kill the tumor cells. A recent modification of the technique uses low-intensity ultrasounds, instead of light, to deliver the anticancer drugs. This new technique, called sonodynamic therapy, is being explored as a promising alternative to phototherapy due to its deeper penetration in the human body.

In the DIRANANO project, we will be using gold NPs to induce anticancer immune responses. Gold particles are widely employed in biomedicine due to their non-toxic and non-immunogenic nature. In addition, they present high permeability and have a high retention effect in their surface, thus enabling easy penetration and accumulation of drugs at the immune and tumor sites.

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 956544
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