Treating brain tumors can depend on getting drugs into the brain, but the blood-brain barrier makes that difficult. In recent years, researchers have bypassed the barrier using nanoparticles that function like invisibility cloaks for drugs. Now, W. Mark Saltzman, Ph.D., Goizueta Foundation Professor of Biomedical Engineering and professor of chemical engineering and molecular physiology, and colleagues, are working to ensure that once in the brain, drug-carrying nanoparticles will actively target tumors—as opposed to either damaging healthy cells or occupying vacant space in the brain with no therapeutic effect.
Saltzman’s team treated the brains of rats with nanoparticles bearing several different coatings. Some coatings had “stealth properties,” which help the nanoparticles evade the immune system but also can prevent cancer cells from recognizing them. For others, stealth properties were combined with bioadhesive coatings designed to make the nanoparticles stick to cells.
As reported on May 17 in Nature Communications, the bioadhesive nanoparticles targeted all cell types at a higher rate than particles with stealth properties alone. Tumor cells internalized the bioadhesive nanoparticles at the highest rates of all. The result may signal a future ability to target therapies far more precisely, and with greater safety and effectiveness.