‘Nanopieces’ may deliver drugs to treat incurable bone cancer

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Researchers have used nanotechnology to identify a potentially groundbreaking treatment for an aggressive bone cancer that has proven disappointingly unresponsive to existing therapies, a new study shows.

The new approach to treating chondrosarcoma, a rare cancer that typically afflicts adults and has poor survival rates, appears in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics.

The research, using a mouse model, suggests that deploying nanoparticles might offer an innovative and effective way to penetrate tumor cells. These “nanopieces,” as the research team calls them, could then deliver nucleic acid therapeutics directly inside the cancer cells and slow tumor growth.

Richard Terek, chief of musculoskeletal oncology at Rhode Island Hospital, an orthopedic oncology surgeon with the Lifespan Cancer Institute, and a professor of orthopedic surgery at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, has long researched ways to fight chondrosarcoma.

For the current study, he teamed up with molecular and nano-medicine researcher Qian Chen, director of the Center of Biomedical Research Excellence in Skeletal Health and Repair at Rhode Island Hospital and a professor of orthopedic research and medical science at Brown.

“What is most novel about the work is that we have used a special type of nanoparticle, which we call a ‘nanopiece delivery platform,’ developed by my collaborator Dr. Chen, for systemic delivery of anti-microRNA sequences (antagomirs),” Terek says.

“The work has been performed in cell culture and in a mouse model. We have been able to inhibit metastatic pathways and slow down the spread of cancer. This approach is in keeping with current strategies to turn cancer into a chronic disease. An advantage of the nanopiece platform is its safety and ability to penetrate into the tumor matrix and deliver the cargo to the tumor cells.”

“This has very strong translational value in developing treatment for chondrosarcoma, a lethal disease that currently does not have any effective treatment,” Chen says. “Dr. Terek devoted his whole career in developing treatment for this disease, and this may be the most promising potential treatment so far.

“The nanopieces delivery platform, which we developed at Rhode Island Hospital and Brown University, is able to penetrate the tumor, reduce tumor growth, and prolong survival period in the mice model. Based on these promising pre-clinical data, the next step is to develop biologic therapeutics specifically targeting human chondrosarcoma.”

The National Institutes of Health supported the work.

Source: Brown University