Researchers Develop New Drug Candidate That Kills Triple Negative Breast Cancer Cells

A team of researchers from the University of Arkansas has come up with a new nano-drug candidate that kills triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) cells. TNBC is one of the most aggressive types of breast cancer that is known to have poor prognosis than the other types. The study will help clinicians target the tumor cells directly, without harming healthy cells and avoiding the adverse side effects of chemotherapy. The findings of the research have been published in the scientific journal, Advanced Therapeutics.

In order to conduct the research, the team linked a new class of nanomaterials known as metal-organic frameworks, with the ligands of a photodynamic therapy drug that has been previously developed. The result was a nanoporous material that targets and kills cancer cells without harming the healthy cells. Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are a class of nanomaterials designed for targeted drug delivery.

Hassan Beyzavi, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, said: “Apart from skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common cancer type in Americans. Every year, thousands of American women die from cancer, and those with TNBC are vulnerable because of the harmful side effects of the only approved types of treatment. We’ve found a solution to this major issue by developing a drug candidate that targets cancer cells and does not attack normal cells.”

The primary focus of the team in Beyzavi’s laboratory to develop new, targeted photodynamic therapy drugs. These drugs are an alternative to chemotherapy and have fewer adverse side effects. Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a non-invasive way that depends on a photosensitizer and, upon irradiation by light, generates toxic reactive oxygen species, which are responsible for killing cancer cells. Over the last few years, PDT has gained a lot of attention because of its ability to kill cancer cells in a non-invasive way.

Research Fellow Yoshie Sakamaki from Beyzavi’s laboratory made the whole arrangement and then linked them with ligands of the PDT drug to create nanoporous materials that targeted cancer cells without killing healthy ones. Along with treating cancer, this novel approach can be used with MRI or fluorescence imaging, which can locate the drug in the body and study the progress of the treatment.

According to the American Cancer Society, around 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer were detected in 2019, with 41,760 deaths. At present, more than 3.1 million women are estimated to have survived breast cancer in the United States. Since 2007, mortality rates because of breast cancer have been stable in women younger than 50 but have continued to decrease in older women due to early detection and better treatments.

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