Posted in | News | Nanomedicine | Nanomaterials

Nanodiamonds Enable Direct Application of Chemotherapy to Brain Tumors

Researchers at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center have developed a new drug delivery system using nanodiamonds (NDs) that allows for direct application of chemotherapy to brain tumors with fewer harmful side effects and better cancer-killing efficiency than existing treatments.

Dr. Dean Ho

The study was a collaboration between Dean Ho, professor, division of oral biology and medicine, division of advanced prosthodontics, and department of bioengineering and co-director of the Weintraub Center for Reconstructive Biotechnology at UCLA School of Dentistry and colleagues from the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Glioblastoma is the most common and lethal type of brain tumor. Despite treatment with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, median survival time of patients with glioblastoma is less than 1.5 years. This tumor is notoriously difficult to treat in part because chemotherapy drugs injected on their own often are unable to cross the blood-brain barrier, which is the system of protective blood vessels that surround the brain. Also, most drugs do not stay concentrated in the tumor tissue long enough to be effective.

The drug doxorubicin (DOX) is a common chemotherapy agent that is a promising treatment for a broad range of cancers, and served as a model drug for treatment of brain tumors when injected directly into the tumor. Ho’s team originally developed a strategy for strongly attaching DOX molecules to ND surfaces, creating a combined substance called ND-DOX.

Nanodiamonds can carry a broad range of drug compounds and prevent the ejection of drug molecules that are injected on their own by proteins found in cancer cells. Thus the ND-DOX stays in the tumor longer than DOX alone, exposing the tumor cells to the drug much longer without affecting the tissue surrounding the tumor.

Ho and colleagues hypothesized that glioblastoma might be efficiently treated with a nanodiamond-modified drug using a technique called convection enhanced delivery (CED), by which they injected ND-DOX directly into brain tumors in rodent models.

The researchers found that the ND-DOX levels in the tumor were retained for a duration far beyond that of DOX alone. The DOX was taken into the tumor and stayed in the tumor longer when attached to NDs. ND-DOX also increased programmed cell death (apoptosis) and decreased cell viability in glioma (brain cancer) cell lines.

Their results also showed for the first time that ND- DOX delivery limited the amount of DOX that was distributed outside the tumor and reduced toxic side effects while keeping the drug in the tumor longer and increasing tumor-killing efficiency for brain cancer treatment. Treatment was more effective and survival time increased significantly in rats treated with ND-DOX compared to those given unmodified DOX. Further research will expand the list of brain cancer chemotherapy drugs that can be attached to the ND surface to improve treatment and reduce side effects.

“Nanomaterials are promising vehicles for treating different types of cancer,” Ho said. “We’re looking for the drugs and situations where nanotechnology actually helps chemotherapy function better, making it easier on the patient and harder on the cancer.”

Ho went on to say that the ND has many facets, almost like the surface of a soccer ball, and can bind to DOX very strongly and quickly. To have a nanoparticle that has translational significance it has to have as many benefits as possible engineered into one system as simply as possible. CED of ND-DOX offers a powerful treatment delivery system against these very difficult and deadly brain tumors.

Ho adds that a project of this scale has been successful due to the multi-disciplinary and proactive interactions between his team of bioengineers and outstanding clinical collaborators from Northwestern and Lurie Children’s Hospital.

The study appears in the advance online issue of the peer-reviewed journal Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine.

This research was supported by The National Science Foundation CAREER Award, the Center for Scalable and Integrated NanoManufacturing, the V Foundation for Cancer Research Scholars Award, the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation Translational Research Award, the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening Endowed Fellowship, Beckman Coulter, the European Commission funding program, and the National Cancer Institute.

UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center has more than 240 researchers and clinicians engaged in disease research, prevention, detection, control, treatment and education. One of the nation's largest comprehensive cancer centers, the Jonsson center is dedicated to promoting research and translating basic science into leading-edge clinical studies. In July 2013, the Jonsson Cancer Center was named among the top 12 cancer centers nationwide by U.S. News & World Report, a ranking it has held for 14 consecutive years. For more information on the Jonsson Cancer Center, visit our website at



Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    University of California, Los Angeles. (2019, February 11). Nanodiamonds Enable Direct Application of Chemotherapy to Brain Tumors. AZoNano. Retrieved on May 25, 2024 from

  • MLA

    University of California, Los Angeles. "Nanodiamonds Enable Direct Application of Chemotherapy to Brain Tumors". AZoNano. 25 May 2024. <>.

  • Chicago

    University of California, Los Angeles. "Nanodiamonds Enable Direct Application of Chemotherapy to Brain Tumors". AZoNano. (accessed May 25, 2024).

  • Harvard

    University of California, Los Angeles. 2019. Nanodiamonds Enable Direct Application of Chemotherapy to Brain Tumors. AZoNano, viewed 25 May 2024,

Tell Us What You Think

Do you have a review, update or anything you would like to add to this news story?

Leave your feedback
Your comment type

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.