Antisense drugs improved by gold standard

In collaboration with the Press Association

Scientists believe they may have opened a new avenue in cancer treatment by combining an experimental cancer therapy with gold nanoparticles.

The experimental therapy, known as antisense therapy, works by blocking a key part in the process of protein manufacture, called messenger RNA.

Antisense drugs can be used to prevent tumour cells from producing proteins that make them cancerous.

"When mutations in the body's genetic material cause too many copies of certain proteins, cancer and other diseases can result," said lead author professor Chad Mirkin.

"One way to target the genetic material is to block the messenger RNA by using 'antisense DNA,' which prevents the message from ever becoming a protein."

One of the major challenges so far has been to ensure the drugs get to where they are needed without breaking down on the way.

Professor Mirkin and his colleagues found that by attaching multiple strands of antisense DNA to gold nanoparticles, the treatment was both more stable and better able to reach its target.

"Powerful new cancer drugs will only live up to their potential if they can be efficiently delivered to cancer cells," said Ed Yong, science information officer at Cancer Research UK. "This study accomplishes this by combining two exciting and relatively new technologies - antisense drugs and nanotechnology.

"In upcoming years, we are likely to see nanotechnology play a greater role in detecting and treating cancers."

The research was conducted by the Northwestern University's Center for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence in the US and is published in the journal Science.