CARMEL, Calif., Oct. 8, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- By loading sickle red blood cells with cancer fighting drugs and programming them to burst open in tumors, scientists have found a novel way to deliver large amounts of chemotherapy into oxygen-starved tumors that have proven difficult to treat in humans. The research featured on the cover of the October issue of the Journal of Controlled Release builds on a breakthrough cancer treatment chosen by Wikipedia as a scientific event of 2013. The new method exploits the unique tendency of jagged, crescent-shaped sickle cells to target and stick to the walls of tumor blood vessels. When programmed with photo-radiation, the drug-loaded sickle cells burst open in the tumor and deliver fourfold more drug to breast cancers in mice than similarly-treated normal red blood cells and free drug. This method can be used to deliver numerous chemotherapeutic agents to a broad spectrum of human tumors. The research is reported by Dr. David S. Terman of Jenomic Research Institute, Carmel California and colleagues at the University of Florida
In the study, the sickle cell were loaded with drugs and precisely programmed to burst open 15 hours after injection when the vast majority of the sickle cells had accumulated in the tumors. At this critical time point, the ruptured sickle cells spilled their drug cargo on the tumor cells achieving drug levels in tumors that far exceeded those of free drug and similarly treated normal red blood cells. The treatment can be used in all humans not just those with sickle cell anemia since the sickle cells can be obtained from sickle cell precursor cells grown in the laboratory. In the accompanying cover story, journal editor Kwon Park praised sickle cells as novel, innovative and potentially more flexible than nanoparticles for delivering cancer-fighting drugs to oxygen-deprived tumors hard to treat in humans.
SOURCE David S. Terman, MD, Jenomic Research Institute