In a breakthrough discovery, researchers have developed a technique that coats anti-cancer drugs as patient's own platelets, allowing the drugs to last longer and attack both primary tumors and also the circulating tumor cells that can cause cancer to spread.
Zhen Gu, assistant professor at North Carolina State University, said, "There are two key advantages while using platelet membranes to coat anti-cancer drugs. First, the surface of cancer cells has an affinity for platelets they stick to each other. Second, because the platelets come from the patient's own body, the drug carriers are not identified as foreign objects so these last longer in the bloodstream."
Blood is taken from a patient, a mouse in this case, and the platelets are collected from that blood sample. The isolated platelets are then treated to extract the platelet membranes. These membranes are then placed in a solution containing the anti-cancer drug 'Dox'. The solution is then compressed to create nanoscale spheres made up of platelet membranes with the drug. These spheres are further treated so that their surfaces are coated with another effective anti-cancer drug named 'TRAIL'.
The authors said, "When released into a patient's bloodstream, these pseudo-platelets can circulate for up to 30 hours - as compared to approximately six hours for the nanoscale vehicles without the coating."
In mice, the research team found that using the pseudo-platelet drug delivery system was significantly more effective against large tumors and circulating tumor cells.
Quanyin Hu, PhD student in the joint biomedical engineering program, said, "This combination of features means that the drugs can not only attack the main tumor site also attacking new tumors before they start."
The authors concluded, "We think the technology can be used to deliver other drugs such as those targeting cardiovascular disease."