The scientists who recently unveiled a cellular protease-mediated, graphene-based nanosystem to deliver molecularly-targeted cancer drugs refer to it as a “flying carpet” delivery technique.
It might be more accurate to call it a “cruise missile” delivery technique, judging by the decimation it brings to tumors in the landing zone.
This new approach isn’t designed specifically for hammering mesothelioma tumors, but mesothelioma is clearly among the tumor types to which the flying carpet can carry a payload of drugs.
Mesothelioma Treatment Delivery of the Future
The drugs that traveled aboard the flying carpet on its test runs were doxorubicin and an anticancer protein known as TRAIL — tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand.
The flying carpet technique was described at length in the online edition of the journal Advanced Materials.
The authors belong to an international team of researchers from North Carolina State University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Pharmaceutical University in China.
The concept involves using graphene strips to deliver the two anticancer drugs in the same trip, but in the form of a one-two punch to the cancer.
Graphene is basically a sheet of carbon. Interestingly, it’s said to be only two-dimensional — that’s because its thickness is equal to that of only a single atom. Each of the two drugs targets a particular structure on or within the cancer cell.
The researchers tested the technique on mice and observed that it appears to be more effective than delivering the drugs by conventional means.
Also, they decided to deliver these two drugs together because TRAIL works best at defeating the protective shell surrounding the cancer cell while doxorubicin is better a disrupting the cell’s inner machinery.
In operation, the TRAIL comes off the graphene first and punches holes in the shell, creating a pathway for the doxorubicin to plunge deep inside.
Mesothelioma Drugs Onboard
The researchers indicated that it’s actually fairly simple to load the two drugs onto the graphene sheets.
The doxorubicin has a molecular structure that closely approximates the structure of graphene. Put the two in contact and they each automatically think they belong together.
TRAIL, meanwhile, adheres to the graphene via peptides, which are a type of amino acid.
The researchers liken the graphene strips to flying carpets because they waft through the bloodstream in a manner reminiscent of the magical rugs of ancient Persian lore.
The flying carpets are engineered to seek out leaks in blood vessels — which the presence of tumors invariably causes. The graphene strips use the leaks as a point of entry to travel inside the tumor.
The drugs “deplane” so to speak from the flying carpet as soon as they encounter a cancer cell. Receptors on the cell literally reach out and yank the drugs off the graphene.
The researchers say their tests of the graphene flying carpet drug delivery technique are leading up to a clinical trial in humans.
North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute, along with North Carolina State and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill underwrote the costs of the research.
The researchers will need to obtain more funding to pay for the human clinical trial they want to conduct next.