How can we be sure that they actually reach the tumour cells they’ve been engineered to kill? A UK research team found that microscopic gold bubbles – called nanoparticles – could be used to deliver a deadly drug payload and kill tumour cells. These vessels can provide access to the cancer cells, but they can also – paradoxically – serve as a barrier between the drug and the tumour.
In some cases, crossing this barrier relies on the fact the walls of tumours blood vessels are often disorganised and chaotic, making them abnormally leaky, and allowing cancer drugs to slip through into the tumour.
“But not all of these vessels are leaky. And in some cases the physical pressure within the tumour and between the cancer cells themselves can stop drugs from reaching their target.”
Working out how to actively get drugs into tumours, rather than relying on them passively diffusing in, could play a key role in getting drugs to cancer cells more efficiently.
As we’ve written about recently, researchers are now turning to the bigger picture, viewing cancer as more than just the rogue cells that make up a tumour.