Adding staying power to brain tumor drugs
When a surgeon removes a brain tumor, it’s routine to leave chemotherapy drugs in place of the cancer. But it’s notoriously tricky to get these drugs to sufficiently penetrate the brain; blood flowing through capillaries sweeps the small molecules out of the dense tissue before they can make much of an impact.
But W. Mark Saltzman, Ph.D., Goizueta Foundation Professor of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, and colleagues at Cornell University have made one drug, camptothecin, stick around the brain longer by attaching water-soluble polymers to it. The larger compound doesn’t get taken up by capillaries, and is more amenable to the brain’s chemistry, the group reports in the November issue of Bioconjugate Chemistry.
Saltzman’s team designed the drug to release the polymer once it’s had a chance to seep throughout the brain, so the drug can then do its job in killing cancerous cells.
“Like a stealth fighter,” says Saltzman, chair of Yale’s department of biomedical engineering, “it can get through war zones.”