Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed an ingenious way to fight cancer cells. By coating anticancer drugs with membranes from a patient’s platelets, drugs are able to last longer within the patient’s body giving them more time to attack both the primary tumor and circulating tumor cells. This method has the advantage of being more targeted than other alternatives, allowing the drug to find cancer cells more efficiently.
In order to do this, researchers took a blood sample and isolated the platelets. These underwent a treatment to separate their membranes, and the membranes were then placed in a solution with a nanoscale gel with doxorubicin (an anticancer drug). By compressing this solution, the gel incorporates into the membrane creating nanospheres of doxorubicin covered by platelet membranes. These membranes are then treated with another anticancer drug called TNF-alpha-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand (TRAIL), which is a highly selective anticancer drug that induces apoptosis mainly in cancer cells instead of most normal cells. This treatment method lasts up to 30 hours in the bloodstream, much higher in comparison to the drugs without the coating which last approximately six hours. As it can stay in the bloodstream for longer time periods, this treatment has the potential advantage of attacking cancerous cells before they proliferate.
At this point this process has only been used in mice, but results are highly promising as this treatment is more effective against large tumors and circulating tumor cells than doxorubicin and TRAIL treatments without the membrane.