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MIT Chemists Design Nanoparticles That Can Deliver Three Cancer Drugs at a Time

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The particles were designed to release doxorubicin when exposed to ultraviolet light. Here, ovarian cancer cells turn red as the doxorubicin is released over time. (Image Source: MIT; Image courtesy of Erik Dreaden and Kevin Shopsowitz)

Delivering chemotherapy drugs in nanoparticle form could help reduce side effects by targeting the drugs directly to the tumors. In recent years, scientists have developed nanoparticles that deliver one or two chemotherapy drugs, but it has been difficult to design particles that can carry any more than that in a precise ratio. Now MIT chemists have devised a new way to build such nanoparticles, making it much easier to include three or more different drugs. The researchers showed that they could load their particles with three drugs commonly used to treat ovarian cancer. “We think it’s the first example of a nanoparticle that carries a precise ratio of three drugs and can release those drugs in response to three distinct triggering mechanisms,” says Jeremiah Johnson, an assistant professor of chemistry at MIT. Such particles could be designed to carry even more drugs, allowing researchers to develop new treatment regimens that could better kill cancer cells while avoiding the side effects of traditional chemotherapy. Johnson and colleagues demonstrated that the triple-threat nanoparticles could kill ovarian cancer cells more effectively than particles carrying only one or two drugs, and they have begun testing the particles against tumors in animals.