Scientists invent an anti-cancer drug which can disguise itself as fats

A recent study talks about a new drug-delivery system that can disguise chemotherapeutics in form of fats, in order to penetrate, outsmart and ultimately destroy tumors.

The process is possible, when the tumors invite the drug inside, believing them to be tasty fats. After the tumors enters, the targeted drug begins to suppress the tumors growth. Moreover, the drug is reported to be lower in toxicity than the present chemotherapy drugs which also induces fewer side effects.

“It’s like a Trojan horse,” commented lead-author, Nathan Gianneschi of Northwestern University. “It looks like a nice little fatty acid, so the tumor’s receptors see it and invite it in. Then the drug starts getting metabolized and kills the tumor cells.”

In order to develop this targeting system, Gianneschi constructed a long-chain of fatty acids. It had two binding sites which were able to attach to the drugs on both ends. The drugs and the fatty acid is reportedly then hidden in human serum albumin (HSA). These also further carry fats and molecules within the body.

“It’s like the fatty acid has a hand on both ends: one can grab onto the drug and one can grab onto proteins,” comments Gianneschi with regards to the innovative discovery. “The idea is to disguise drugs as fats so that they get into cells and the body is happy to transport them around.”

The study was carried out with the help of a drug delivery system. This system enabled to carry a common FDA-approved chemotherapy drug- paclitaxel. The drug could be carried into tumors into a small animal model. Disguising itself as fat, it was capable of eliminating the tumors, especially in three types of cancer, such as colon, pancreatic and bone.

Moreover, owning to the fewer side effects of the drug, the scientists could deliver the dose of the paclitaxel 20 times more, in comparison to two other paclitaxel-based drugs. It was also reported, that with such dosage, the drug in Gianneschi’s system was yet 17 times safer.

“Commonly used small-molecule drugs get into tumors — and other cells,” explained Gianneschi. “They are toxic to tumors but also to humans. Hence, in general, these drugs have horrible side effects. Our goal is to increase the amount that gets into a tumor versus into other cells and tissues. That allows us to dose at much higher quantities without side effects, which kills the tumors faster.”

The study was published on July 18 in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS).