Cancer is often a devastating condition where cells in a specific part of the body proliferate uncontrollably, resulting in tumors with the potential to spread to other parts of the host’s anatomy. Cancer therapeutics such as immunotherapies or chemotherapy traditionally used to treat patients are also unfortunately known to cause many adverse events ranging in severity with no guarantee of permanent remission.
Nanomedicine is where nanotechnology is utilized in heath-based situations and may involve nanoparticles, nanomaterials, or nanobots. Nanomedicines are now being married to gas molecules to treat cancer, with these ‘gas therapies’ holding much potential due to their ability to selectively kill cancer cells whilst protecting healthy cells from damage caused by traditional oncological therapies. However, gas nanomedicines currently possess low tumor coverage and lack a controlled-release mechanism, causing limited efficacy.
A new nanomedicine for cancer
Now, a study from researchers at Shenzhen University highlights the failings in gas nanomedicines and provides numerous solutions and analysis to any problems engineering teams may face. The team states their lit review should help to lead the research community towards the era of advanced gas-releasing nanomedicines. The opensource study is published in the journal National Science Review.
Previous studies show the tumor microenvironment (TME), consisting of the surrounding blood vessels, immune cells, fibroblasts, signaling molecules, and the extracellular matrix, is crucial to tumor development and metastasis. Gases such as Nitric-Oxide (NO), Carbon Monoxide (CO), and Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) play important roles in promoting the growth, proliferation, and metastasis of cancer-associated cells in the TME, with a small number of gases proving toxic to cancer in high concentrations via the inhibition of mitochondrial respiratory metabolism.
Designing gas nanomedicines with these functions is challenging, however. The current study identifies the four main issues hindering the advance of gas nanomedicine, namely, controlled gas release, the chemical decomposition of gas-carrier nanoparticles, tumor-targeted gas delivery approaches, and the use of gas nanomedicine with all available cancer therapies.
The field of gas nanomedicine
The current study provides engineering strategies for gas nanomedicines, with the first premise involving the controlled release of gas therapies from nanoparticles activated by internal or external stimuli. The lit review evaluated light, X-ray, ultrasound, magnetic fields, and heat for external stimuli; with over-expressed chemicals in the TME including H2O2, lactic acid, glucose, and enzymes analyzed for use as internal activators.
The next solution involves the chemical decomposition of the nanoparticles carrying the gases which greatly affects the response rate and the gas release amount. The review posits numerous methods of catalysis to speed up decomposition and gas release.
This extensive analysis also provides tumor-targeted gas delivery strategies to counteract the current practice of targeting paths focusing on only one or two organelles. The group explains some gases such as NO or Sulfur dioxide (SO2) are known to damage the nuclei of cancer cells, therefore, gas delivery directly to the cell nucleus should prove more effective.
Analysis involving the combination of gas nanomedicines with multiple types of traditional cancer therapy provides results showing the efficacy and side effects of these treatments. The solution provides dosages and targets for gas nanomedicine which will greatly differ to those of standard cancer therapies.
The team surmises they present numerous strategies and solutions for problems slowing the development of gas-releasing nanomedicines in the field of cancer. For the future, the researchers believe this review pushes forward the field of gas-releasing nanomedicines as a whole.
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Michelle is a health industry veteran who taught and worked in the field before training as a science journalist.
Featured by numerous prestigious brands and publishers, she specializes in clinical trial innovation--expertise she gained while working in multiple positions within the private sector, the NHS, and Oxford University.