The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Guwahati, researchers have developed a new strategy to deliver chemotherapeutic drugs specifically to the cancerous cells in a patient’s body. The results have been published in journals of The Royal Society of Chemistry, including ‘Chemical Communications’ and ‘Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry,’ a statement from the institute has said.
According to the statement, the problem with the existing chemotherapeutic drugs is that they kill healthy cells of the body in addition to cancerous cells, leading to numerous undesirable side effects. In fact, it is believed that cancer deaths are as much due to the side effects of chemotherapy as the disease itself. There is worldwide research to overcome the drawbacks of secondary toxicity of chemotherapeutic drugs. Some strategies that are being explored include target-specific delivery of the drugs and on-demand delivery of appropriate drug doses to cancerous cells/tissues.
Explaining his research, Professor Debasis Manna, Department of Chemistry, IIT Guwahati, said in the statement, “We have two needs in the development of chemotherapy drugs – the drug must be targetted at the cancer cells, the drug must be released by an external trigger whenever it is required,”
To meet the above needs, the molecule developed by the research team has four special features as mentioned below:
- The molecules assemble to form hollow spherical shells in water. These shells that are ten-millionth of a metre in size can be used as a minuscule container for the drug molecule.
- The molecule has a part (the acetazolamide ligand) that specifically binds to cancer cells and not normal cells.
- The molecule has a photocleavable linker moiety that is responsive to infrared light and breaks the shell when exposed to IR.
- Molecule also contains a dye moiety (cyanine-3) which is also useful for both fluoresce and scattering-based imaging to visually monitor the entire process.
Thus, the molecules developed by the IIT-G researchers self-assemble as capsules to hold the drug, which then attaches only to cancer cells. When infrared light is shone on it, the shell breaks and releases the encapsulated drug into the cancerous cell. The IIT-G scientists rightly believe that their approach would allow the development of drug carriers for chemotherapy with enhanced efficacy and negligible side effects, the statement further added.
Following the development of the targetted IR (light)-trigger drug release system, the IIT Guwahati researchers are preparing to perform in-vivo studies to take this understanding closer to drug development, concluded the statement.