A degradable nanoscale shell to carry proteins to cancer cells and stunt the growth of tumors without damaging healthy cells has been developed by a team led by researchers from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science.
Tiny shells (about 100 nanometers in length, roughly half the size of the smallest bacterium) are composed of a water-soluble polymer that safely delivers a protein complex to the nucleus of cancer cells to induce their death. The shells degrade harmlessly in non-cancerous cells.
The process does not present the risk of genetic mutation posed by gene therapies for cancer, or the risk to healthy cells caused by chemotherapy, which does not effectively discriminate between healthy and cancerous cells, said Yi Tang, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and a member of the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA.
“This approach is potentially a new way to treat cancer,” said Tang. “It is a difficult problem to deliver the protein if we don’t use this vehicle. This is a unique way to treat cancer cells and leave healthy cells untouched.”