Create materials that store anticancer drugs in the body

The nanoparticles created by Dr. Doan Le Hoang Tan and his research team can deliver targeted anti-cancer drugs to the tumor, then self-decompose.

Vietnam has many natural medicinal substances with high anti-cancer activity, but most do not dissolve well in water (which is the main environment in the body). This limits the applicability of natural medicinal substances in the clinical treatment of cancer patients.

Realizing this limitation, during postdoctoral research at UCLA University (USA) since 2017, Dr. Doan Le Hoang Tan (34 years old) explored the application of nanomaterials in biomedicine. In early 2019, he returned home and built a research team at the Research Center for Nanostructured and Molecular Materials (INOMAR), Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh City, fabricating biodegradable porous nanoparticles, as carriers and transmitters of anticancer substances to tumors in a precise and controlled way, completely limit side effects and increase the effectiveness of medicinal substances.

According to Dr. Tan, the research team chose nanoparticles as drug carriers because the particle size (50-400 nanometers) can load large amounts of substances and high biocompatibility. Specifically, nanoparticles target diseased tissues (tumors) by matching target antigens and may contain multiple medicinal agents. “While conventional methods cannot do this,” Dr Tan said.

The organic silica nanotype researched by the team has a diameter in the range of 50-300 nanometers. This microscopic size helps to disperse and move easily in the body environment. The material contains thousands of pores loaded with large amounts of medicinal substances of different molecular sizes and water solubility.

In order for nanoparticles to deliver pharmaceuticals to precisely target cancer cells in tumors and inhibit them, Dr. Tan and his colleagues must optimize the particle size to suit each type of cancer cell, especially studying the pore size for each specific drug.

The sponge functions to store anticancer drugs (such as doxorubicin, camptothecin, and taxol), then precisely travel to tumors and conduct drugs to inhibit their growth. Pore size can be controlled during the synthesis of medicinal substances. Some less stable substances in the body environment are protected by nanoparticles in pores, avoiding decomposition before reaching the tumor.

The outstanding advantage of the nanoparticles fabricated by the team is their ability to biodegrade to reduce accumulation at high concentrations. The nanoparticles, after completing the drug transport process, can self-decompose and reduce in size to a few nanometers for easy elimination by the kidneys. This is an important characteristic of the new generation of carriers when limiting the ability of drug carriers to bioaccumulate in the body.

To evaluate the ability of nanoparticles, Dr. Tan and his colleagues collaborated with a group of foreign experts (USA) to use a model of chicken egg tumors, which are created by implanting cancer cells into the chorioallantoic membrane that surrounds the embryo inside a fertilized chicken egg. Dr. Tan said that this model is much lower cost than the mouse model but produces experimental results quickly.

Due to the undeveloped immune system and the presence of a highly vascular structure, the tumor is formed within just three days, containing blood vessels, extracellular cells and tumor-like formations in humans. The results showed that the nanomaterial conducts anti-cancer medicinal substances (synthetic and natural origin) to the right tumor target, with a controlled release, without causing side effects.

Thanks to their ability to transmit and release substances that target tumors and self-decompose after completing their tasks, nanoparticles help increase the therapeutic effect of pharmaceuticals, reduce cancer treatment costs and completely limit side effects during healing with chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Dr. Tan said that the group is in the process of coordinating with domestic and Japanese experts to apply nanocarrier systems in clinical treatment and develop a biodegradable nanomaterial platform carrying anticancer drugs of artificial and natural origin.

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