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News Archive 2001 - 2010

Novel Nanoparticles Should Greatly Improve Prostate Cancer Treatment

January 22, 2009

Prostate cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in males. Although several advanced therapies have been developed, they often produce debilitating side effects for patients. However, a treatment method being developed by biomedical engineers at The University of Texas at Arlington may reduce or eliminate these complications and also improve the effectiveness of drug therapies.

Bioengineering Assistant Professor Kytai Nguyen has received a three-year, $484,000 grant from the Department of Defense to develop novel polymer magnetic nanoparticles for the targeted and controlled release of drugs to only the prostate tumor and prostate cancer cells. Magnetic nanoparticles have been previously used in some treatments, but Dr. Nguyen’s addition of specialized polymers increases the probability of the drugs being taken up by the cancer cells.

Dr. Nguyen and her associates plan to create drug-carrying core-shell structures, with the core consisting of magnetic nanoparticles and the surrounding shell containing temperature-sensitive polymers. An external magnetic belt is used to guide the nanoparticles to the tumor regions. Once there, specific peptides contained in the polymers allow the drug-carrying shell to be drawn into the prostate cancer cells.

Scans can then be used to determine when a sufficient number of shells have been absorbed. A stronger magnetic current is then applied to the area, causing a two-stage attack: The temperature-sensitive polymer shells rupture, releasing the drugs, and increased heat is applied to the tumor. Both of these kill only the cancerous cells.

Dr. Nguyen will be collaborating with Drs. Weina Cui and Jer-Tsong Hsieh of The UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, who will assist with imaging and animal studies. Preliminary studies by former Ph.D. student Maham Rahimi helped to secure this grant.