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Targeted Nanoparticles May Improve on Whole-Body Chemotherapy

Researchers using nanoparticles with attached molecules of folic acid and containing the widely-used anti-cancer drug taxol have shown that it may be possible to target cancer cells specifically and thus avoid the multiple side effects that are seen with toxic whole-body chemotherapies such as taxol. The specificity is built upon cancer cells’ high consumption of folic acid. In addition to taxol, the nanoparticles contain a fluorescent dye and an iron oxide magnetic core. Thus, the location of the nanoparticles within cells and the body can be detected with optical imaging and magnetic resonance imaging. This allows the physician to see how the tumor is responding to the treatment. The nanoparticles can also be engineered without the drug and used as imaging (contrast) agents for cancer. If there is no cancer, the biodegradable nanoparticles will not bind to the tissue and will be eliminated by the liver. The iron oxide core will be utilized as regular iron in the body. "What's unique about our work is that the nanoparticle has a dual role, as a diagnostic and therapeutic agent, in a biodegradable and biocompatible vehicle," said Dr. J. Manuel Perez, senior author of the report. This research, by scientists at the University of Central Florida and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, was published in the journal Small. [Press release] [Small abstract]