NORMAN — Despite the emergence of new treatments, only 15 percent of lung cancer patients survive. Researchers at the Peggy and Charles Stephenson Cancer Center hope to change that with a new approach that utilizes new nanoparticle technology.
“If you can quickly make the determination of treatment effectiveness, the physicians can have the opportunity to make a decision as to whether they need to continue with the drug that they have chosen, or whether they need to change the treatment,” said Rajagopal Ramesh, Ph.D., who also holds the Jim and Christy Everest Endowed Chair in Cancer Developmental Therapeutics in the Department of Pathology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
While there are drugs that effectively attack cancer cells, the challenge for physicians is how to quickly assess whether a particular drug is effective for a particular patient. Frequently, there is a lag of several days between treatment and the determination, via molecular imaging, of whether the drug used is actually targeting and killing the cancer cells.
That lag can be crucial, even fatal, for some cancer patients.
Ramesh, an Oklahoma TSET Cancer Research Scholar with the Stephenson Cancer Center, says it’s important to combine effective therapy with real-time imaging.
Recently, Ramesh and colleagues tested new multi-functional magnetic nanoparticles.
The research was aimed at improving cancer treatment by targeting lung cancer cells, and ultimately, developing a way to track treatment effectiveness at the same time.
Ramesh likens the particles to miniature soccer balls — just nanometers in size — consisting of an inner iron core for Magentic Resonance Imaging and coated with a thin layer of gold that serves multiple beneficial functions.
Gold has optical imaging properties that glow blue, red or orange when under light, making it useful for detecting micrometasis, the microscopic spread of cancer.
“Gold also heats up when exposed to laser light energy, which means it can be used for thermal therapy, utilizing heat to destroy cancer cells,” Ramesh said. “Finally, gold provides maximum surface for attaching therapeutics.”
In their research, Ramesh and his team took advantage of that last golden benefit, attaching to the surface of the nanoparticles the FDA-approved antibody Cetuximab. The antibody targets a specific protein (epidermal growth factor receptor or EGFR) that is expressed at high levels on the surface of non-small cell lung cancer cells and at low levels in normal cells.
The antibody acts as a mediator for signals that are important for cell survival and growth.
Normal cells were not affected.
Source: The Norman Transcript