Posted April 2, 2013

NIH grant focuses on nanotechnology to treat prostate cancer

  • Wong

As prostate cancer progresses, the cancer cells become more resistant to traditional treatments such as chemotherapy and they become more aggressive and spread more rapidly. But now, a Temple School of Pharmacy researcher is exploring the use of nanotechnology to effectively treat latter-stage prostate cancer.

Through a five-year, $1.58 million R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health, Ho-Lun Wong, assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences, is using nanoparticles as a delivery system to target prostate cancer cells with an RNA-based drug.

“Cancer is the most significant drug-resistant disease,” said Wong. “Using RNA-based drugs inhibits the pathway that gives the cancer cells their resistance to traditional drugs, and inhibiting this pathway also reduces the aggressiveness of the cancer cells. They are not able to spread as rapidly.”

The effects of RNA-based drugs are short-lived — usually lasting only 2-4 days — and the drugs are very unstable, said Wong. They also do not differentiate between cell types, so once they are introduced, they can travel to any orgran in the body.

Wong said that using nanoparticles as a delivery system extends the RNA lifespan to 7-10 days and allows for more precise targeting and delivery of the drugs directly to the prostate cancer cells.

Wong, whose lab focuses on drug resistance, has used nanotechnology in past research for the delivery of HIV drugs to the brain. This is the first time he is using RNA-based drugs in the treatment of prostate cancer.

Wong said the first part of the R01 project will be to optimize the delivery of the RNA-based drugs to the prostate cancer cells. In the project’s later stages, the treatment will be combined with chemotherapy.

“This will eventually make chemotherapy — the standard of care against cancer — that much more effective,” he said.