Research Highlights

Novel nano-drug delivery approach for breast cancer

Published online 17 February 2016

A combination of nanocarriers have reportedly proved efficient against breast cancer and breast cancer stem cells subpopulation. 

Islam Elkholi

A new study showcases a promising drug delivery approach that can be effective in fighting chemo-sensitive and chemo–resistant breast cancer cells. 

Cancerous tissues, including breast cancer, are heterogeneous. They consist of cells forming the tumour bulk and other types of cells responsible for metastasis and relapse, known as cancer stem cells (CSCs), which are resistant to conventional chemotherapeutic agents such as paclitaxel. 

Now, scientists from two institutes in Saudi Arabia1 are introducing a highly efficient drug delivery system that can work against both bulk cells and breast CSCs. The system consists of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) conjugated to either paclitaxel or salinomycin, which is known for its potential against CSCs, via a PH-sensitive hydrazone linker to ensure controlled release of the cargo inside the acidic environment of breast cancer tissue exclusively. 

The combination of the paclitaxel- and salinomycin-conjugated SWCNTs decreased the tumour size in the breast cancer mouse model by nearly 19-fold, compared to animals treated with combined free drugs. 

"This novel drug delivery system will be very beneficial in overcoming the limitations of current chemotherapeutic agents such as low solubility, significant toxicity to healthy tissues, short blood circulation and nonspecific targeting. Also, it provides a diagnostic tool to allow monitoring the specific targeting of conjugated drugs and the tumour therapy using noninvasive imaging modalities," says principal investigator, Achraf Al Faraj, from the Department of Radiological Sciences at King Saud University in Saudi Arabia. 

"Future works should focus on validating the long-term safety of this innovative nanocarrier for prospective clinical applications.”


  1. Al Faraj, A. et al. Combination of drug-conjugated SWCNTs nanocarriers for efficient therapy of cancer stem cells in a breast cancer animal model. J. Control. Release. (2016)