(La Jolla, CA., January 8, 2007) -- A collaborative team led by Erkki Ruoslahti, M.D., Ph.D., of the Burnham Institute for Medical Research at UC Santa Barbara (Burnham) has developed nanoparticles that seek out tumors and bind to their blood vessels, and then attract more nanoparticles to the tumor target. Using this system the team demonstrated that the homing nanoparticle could be used to deliver a "payload" of an imaging compound, and in the process act as a clotting agent, obstructing as much as 20% of the tumor blood vessels. These findings are pending publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and will be made available at the journal's website during the week of January 8, 2007.
The promise of nanomedicine is based on the fact that a particle can perform more functions than a drug. Multifuncionality is demonstrated in the current study, in which researchers from Burnham, UC San Diego, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology designed a nanoparticle that combined tumor-homing, self-amplification of the homing, obstructing tumor blood flow, and imaging.
Using a screening technique developed previously in Ruoslahti's laboratory, the group identified a peptide that homed to the blood vessels, or vasculature, inside breast cancer tumors growing in mice. The peptide was comprised of five amino acids: Cysteine-Arginine-Glutamic acid-Lysine-Alanine, abbreviated CREKA.
The researchers then demonstrated that the CREKA peptide recognizes clotted blood, which is present in the lining of tumor vessels but not in vessels of normal tissues. They used a special mouse strain that lacks fibrinogen, the main protein component of blood clots, to show this: tumors growing in these fibrinogen-deficient mice did not attract the CREKA peptide, whereas the peptide was detected in the tumors of a control group of normal littermates.