Nanotechnology And Anti-Cancer Therapeutics

Nanotechnology is a science that has helped mankind seek solutions, which is otherwise impossible on a macro scale. Over the course of time, a myriad of new applications and formulations have been developed to tackle the problems encountered while preparing conventional medical formulations. In this article, i’ll talk about a few devices which have been built using the principles of nanotechnology.[1] Nanotechnology aims at targeting the specific delivery of therapeutic agents (medications), which have been known to reduce the toxicities in other organs. And this has been a major concern in cancer therapy. The therapeutic agents are conventionally directed towards the patient’s cells that have lost apoptotic control and that are growing limitlessly.[2] These medications are directed towards human cancerous cells, it becomes difficult to select the right target, and hence the therapeutic agents end up killing the normal body cells.

A Solution In Research

Nanotechnology directs the therapeutic agents to target a specific organ and also help save other organs from being killed. Many of the recent anti-cancer drugs failed the clinical trials due to safety concerns, but as genuine fix to the concern, they are now being formulated using nanotechnology. Wortmannin, a potent anti-cancer drug that acts as an inhibitor of Phosphoinositol 3-kinase[3] had failed the clinical trials due to problems related to toxicity, solubility and stability. It was later re-formulated as a nanoparticle where the researchers have claimed to solve all the aforementioned problems that earlier caused it’s failure.[4]

Wortmannin bound to target. Image credit:
Wortmannin bound to target (Image credit:

Similarly, researchers have successfully experimented to develop nanoparticles which comprise small chains of magnetic particles (Nanochains) and liposomes loaded with doxorubicin. This was tried in rodent models for triple-negative breast cancer.[5] By doing so, researchers reported that the toxicity was reduced remarkably and as the formulation was loaded with liposomes and made target specific the dose also reduced considerably.

Nano-chain targetting
Nano-chain targeting (Image credit:

The action of this formulation was such that when the liposomes reached the target organ or site of cancerous growth, magnetic nanoparticles were stimulated by electric field which made them vibrate due to which the liposome membrane would disrupt and the drug directly releasing on the cancerous cells. The targeting was based on αvβ3 integrin-targeted nanochain particle composed of four iron oxide nanospheres chemically linked in a linear assembly. The αvβ3 integrin is an adhesion receptor expressed by breast cancer cells and osteoclasts. [6]


  1. Martis, E.A., R.R. Badve, and M.D. Degwekar, Nanotechnology based devices and applications in medicine: An overview. Chronicles of Young Scientists. 3(1): p. 68.
  2. Lowe, S.W. and A.W. Lin, Apoptosis in cancer. Carcinogenesis, 2000. 21(3): p. 485-495.
  3. Weng, L.P., J.L. Brown, and C. Eng, PTEN induces apoptosis and cell cycle arrest through phosphoinositol-3-kinase/Akt-dependent and‐independent pathways. Human molecular genetics, 2001. 10(3): p. 237-242.
  4. Karve, S., et al., Revival of the abandoned therapeutic wortmannin by nanoparticle drug delivery. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 109(21): p. 8230-8235.
  5. Peiris, P.M., et al., Imaging Metastasis Using an Integrin-Targeting Chain-Shaped Nanoparticle. ACS nano. 6 (10), pp 8783–8795
  6. Zhao, Y., et al., Tumor αvβ3 integrin is a therapeutic target for breast cancer bone metastases. Cancer research, 2007. 67(12): p. 5821-5830.