Nanoparticles Used to Optimize Treatment of Peritoneal Tumors

Researchers at the University of Tartu Faculty of Medicine used nanoparticles for the formulation of new imaging and treatment approaches for peritoneal cancers. Tests revealed that precision-guided anticancer nanoparticles have enhanced efficacy and minimal side effects.

One of the most common indicators of gynecological and gastrointestinal malignancies, such as colorectal, gastric, and ovarian cancer, is the distribution of cancer cells in the abdominal cavity. However, treatment prospects are limited, as not all microscopic tumor nodules can be surgically removed and the dose of therapeutics must be maintained suboptimal to restrict side effects.

"Compared to intravenously administered drugs, intraperitoneal anti-cancer drugs achieve higher concentrations in cancer tissue and are thus more efficient. Nevertheless, drugs that are administered in such a way cause side effects in the normal tissues of the abdominal cavity as they do not recognise their 'target'," said the lead author of the research, Hedi Hunt, who recently defended her doctoral thesis at the University of Tartu Faculty of Medicine.

According to Hunt, one option for improving the activity of drugs and decreasing the side effects is to “load” them into nanoparticles and cover the surface of the particles with guiding molecules (peptides–short protein fragments) that identify malignant tissues. "Using these 'smart' nanoparticles can help to improve the solubility, selectivity, and release of drugs in tumor cells," she clarified.

The supervisor of Hunt's doctoral thesis, professor of nanomedicine at the University of Tartu Institute of Biomedicine and Translational Medicine, Tambet Teesalu, told that although certain intraperitoneal anti-cancer nanodrugs have come to clinical trial stage, no intraperitoneal nanodrugs have been approved. The supervisor believes that: "directing the intraperitoneal nanoparticles with tumor homing peptides will open up new possibilities in drug development."

The results of Hedi Hunt's doctoral thesis convincingly show that, in animal models, a homing peptide with the code name TT1 enhances the accumulation of intraperitoneal nanoparticles in malignant tissues and their anti-cancer activity. Our results are potentially clinically applicable. Our collaboration with Dr Olav Tammik at Tartu University Hospital showed that TT1 nanoparticles bind to clinical samples of peritoneal tumors. Now we hope that Hunt's research is noticed by pharmaceutical industry.

Tambet Teesalu, Professor of Nanomedicine, Institute of Biomedicine and Translational Medicine, University of Tartu.

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