Health In Focus
  • An anticancer drug, currently called BA-TPQ, appears to be effective against liver cancer cells
  • However, it is very poorly absorbed and tends to concentrate in other organs, as noted in animal studies, thereby causing toxicity
  • A drug delivery system in the form of minute cubes could help to circumvent these problems

A specially-designed drug delivery system can help to transport a drug for hepatocellular cancer to the site of the cancer, thereby increasing its effectiveness, and simultaneously reducing its adverse effects on other parts of the body. The research was published in the Acta Biomaterialia.

Treatment of cancer has seen some major breakthroughs in the recent years, with several new medications making it to the treatment armamentarium. Many drugs are still in the pipeline, and could benefit several patients, especially those who suffer from cancers that have very few therapeutic options.
Fresh Lease of Life for Liver Cancer Patients With New Drug Delivery System

A new medication called BA-TPQ has been found to be effective in the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma. Due to its hydrophobic property, it has poor solubility and is poorly absorbed. It is therefore unable to reach the liver cancer, where it has to bring about its effects. If injected, it tends to concentrate in organs like the lungs, kidneys, and spleen, as demonstrated in experiments on mice, thus resulting in unacceptable toxicity. Therefore, it was necessary to find a way whereby the drug could selectively reach the cancer so that it could be used clinically.

Scientists have developed a new drug delivery system to circumvent these problems. This system consists of tiny hydrogel cubes made of poly(methacrylic acid) layers, assembled using a layer-by-layer assembly of the polymers and cross-linked with cystamine. Previous studies have indicated that the shape of the hydrogels is important, and those with cubical shapes may be preferred by certain cancer cells when compared to the spherical shape. The cubes were able to retain their shape even after adding the anticancer drug.

Some of the properties of the cubes impregnated with BA-TPQ when tested on normal as well as cancer cells in the laboratory are listed below:
  • The cubes are highly stable and can be stored over long periods after proper processing (they retain shape when re-suspended in solution after freeze-drying)
  • They can cross cell membranes and are stable in acidic solutions; therefore there is a possibility that these can be taken orally without being destroyed in the stomach
  • The anti-tumor activity of BA-TPQ in the new drug delivery system appeared to be amplified due to their ability to affect expression of genes involved in cancer promotion or prevention
  • The selectively of BA-TPQ against hepatocellular cancer cells was maintained. The uptake by normal liver cancer cells was less; therefore the chances of side effects on the liver were less
  • The cubes were more likely to dissolve in the cancer cells and release the drugs, than in the normal cells
BA-TPQ has also been found to be useful in breast and prostate cancer cells when tested in the laboratory. The development of a drug delivery system that could specifically carry the drug to the affected parts of the body could see the drug being used for these cancers as well.

Reference :
  1. Xue R et al. Highly efficient delivery of potent anticancer iminoquinone derivative by multilayer hydrogel cubes. Acta Biomaterialia - (
Source: Medindia

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