Nanoparticles smuggle anti-cancer drugs

Andras Lacko, PhD, is about to take a major step forward in his more than 10 years of cancer research. A recent grant from the National Cancer Institute has allowed him to establish a biotech "incubator," expanding his lab’s research on biocompatible nanoparticles’ role in destroying cancer cells.

 "This recent development will allow the Health Science Center to begin ‘translational research’ – taking our extensive and successful studies from bench to bedside," said Lacko, Professor of Molecular Biology and Immunology. "Our research will be moved from the lab to commercialization and clinical applications so that patients eventually can benefit from the enhanced chemotherapy that we have accomplished successfully in the laboratory."

Lacko’s research focuses on drug-carrying synthetic "good (HDL) cholesterol" nanoparticles called "rHDL" that can function like a Trojan horse.

"Because cancer cells gobble up large amounts of cholesterol, we can fool them by putting anti-cancer drugs inside the rHDL particles that deliver the drugs to kill the cholesterol-hungry cancer cells," Lacko said. "Normal body tissues in adults do not need as much cholesterol as cancer cells, so they are not likely to pick up the anti-cancer drugs during chemotherapy. The rHDL nanoparticles are thus expected to bypass most normal cells and go straight to the cancer cells to deliver their payload and thus limit the side effects of future cancer therapy."

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