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Nanotech News


April 2011

New Method Spots Potential Cancer Drugs Rapidly

A Purdue University biochemist has demonstrated a process using nanotechnology to better assess whether cancer drugs hit their targets, which may help reduce drug side effects. W. Andy Tao, an associate professor of biochemistry analytical chemistry, developed a nanopolymer that can be coated with drugs, enter cells, and then removed to identify the cellular proteins to which the attached drug binds. Dr. Tao believes that since the nanopolymers are water soluble, they also may serve as a delivery system for drugs that do not dissolve in water effectively.

"Many cancer drugs are not very specific. They target many different proteins," said Dr. Tao, whose findings were published in the journal Analytical Chemistry. "That can have a consequence - what we call side effects."

In addition to the drug, the synthetic nanopolymer is equipped with a chemical group that is reactive to small beads. The beads retrieve the nanopolymer and any attached proteins after the drug has done its work. Dr. Tao and his collaborators used mass spectrometry to determine which proteins were present and have been targeted by the drug. Knowing which proteins are targeted would allow drug developers to test whether new drugs target only desired proteins or others as well. Eliminating unintended protein targets could reduce the often-serious side effects associated with cancer drugs.

Dr. Tao said there currently is no reliable way to test drugs for off-targeting. He said drugs are often designed to inhibit or activate the function of a biomolecule associated with cancer, but those drugs tend to fail in late-stage clinical tests.

This work, which was supported in part by the National Cancer Institute, is detailed in a paper titled, "Phosphorylation Assay Based on Multifunctionalized Soluble Nanopolymer." An abstract of this paper is available at the journal's website.

View abstract