A drug carrier that uses the ‘energy molecule’ inside a cancer cell to trigger release of drugs at the tumour site is reported to be successful in treating cancer in mice. These findings, published in Nature Communications this week, may provide another strategy for treating cancer.
Nanoparticles can deliver drugs to tumours but improvements in selectively targeting tumour cells are required. Cancer cells often have high levels of ATP that provides energy for metabolism and this could be exploited for treatment. Zhen Gu and colleagues describe a nanoparticle carrier that relies on high levels of ATP to trigger the release of the chemotherapeutic agent doxorubicin. In the presence of ATP the carrier can undergo a change in shape resulting in the release of the drug. They find that this approach enhanced doxorubicin-induced cancer cell death in the laboratory in cultured cells and in mice. These findings may result in new strategies for delivering chemotherapeutics to cancer cells.