Glioblastoma is an aggressive type of brain cancer with a high mortality rate. It is difficult to treat, although there are several ways of treatment existing. One of the reasons why this disease is so difficult to treat is that most chemotherapeutic drugs cannot penetrate the blood vessels surrounding the brain.
Thanks to a new study by scientists from MIT, there is hope for the possibility of victory over this terrible disease. Special nanoparticles containing drugs are currently being developed. In this method, the drug more effectively enters the brain, overcoming the blood-brain barrier, penetrates the tumor, and kills glioblastoma cells.
Because the brain is a vital organ, the blood vessels surrounding the brain are much more protected from the penetration of potentially harmful molecules (including drugs). This protection is called the blood-brain barrier.
The passage of drugs across the blood-brain barrier is crucial for improving the treatment of glioblastoma, which is usually treated with a combination of surgery, radiation, and oral chemotherapy with temozolomide. Five-year survival with this disease is less than 10%.
For the first time, the lab has used a technique called a layered assembly, which they can use to create surface-functionalized nanoparticles that carry drugs in their nuclei. The particles developed by the researchers for this study are coated with a peptide called AP2, which helps nanoparticles overcome the blood-brain barrier. The researchers filled the particles with cisplatin, a widely used chemotherapeutic drug. When these particles were coated with the target peptide, they were able to effectively destroy glioblastoma tumor cells in a tissue model.
Scientists now hope to test other drugs carried by different nanoparticles to see which ones can have the greatest effect. They also plan to use their approach to create treatment models for other brain tumors.
“We’ve only tested one type of brain tumor, but we really want to expand and test this with a lot of others, especially rare tumors that are difficult to study because there may not be as many samples available,” researchers stated.