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Novel nanoparticle may help impact tumor growth

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A common over-the-counter drug, chopped down into nanoparticle size, stopped growth in a cancer tumor. Image Credit: Washington University in St. Louis

Engineers at Washington University in St. Louis found a way to keep a cancerous tumor from growing by using nanoparticles of the main ingredient in common antacid tablets. The research team, led by Avik Som, an MD/PhD student, and Samuel Achilefu, PhD, professor of radiology and of biochemistry & molecular biophysics in the School of Medicine and of biomedical engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science, in collaboration with two labs in the School of Engineering & Applied Science, used two novel methods to create nanoparticles from calcium carbonate that were injected intravenously into a mouse model to treat solid tumors. The compound changed the pH of the tumor environment, from acidic to more alkaline, and kept the cancer from growing. With this work, researchers showed for the first time that they can modulate pH in solid tumors using intentionally designed nanoparticles. “Cancer kills because of metastasis,” said Som, who is working on a doctorate in biomedical engineering in addition to a medical degree. “The pH of a tumor has been heavily correlated with metastasis. For a cancer cell to get out of the extracellular matrix, or the cells around it, one of the methods it uses is a decreased pH.”