This platform, which is built from tiny nanoparticles coated with thin carbon layers, also selectively images and kills cancer cells by targeting the over-expressed pro-survival genes, according to a study in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

Pro-survival pathways are often upregulated in cancer cells that develop resistance toward chemotherapies. Using gene therapies, scientists have been capable of targeting specific pro-survival pathways and enhancing the outcome of cancer treatment. But unselective suppression of pro-survival pathways can lead to the deaths of surrounding non-cancerous cells. Another issue is that cancer cells can adapt multiple pro-survival pathways and targeting one specific pathway often fails to provide satisfactory results in cancer treatment.

“Our primary goal is to visualize cancer cells, deliver combinatorial anti-cancer therapeutics, and synergistically kill them in a selective manner,” said senior author KiBum Lee, a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “Our system took over five years to develop and has demonstrated huge potential for personalized medicine and imaging-guided cancer treatment.”

The team’s intelligent drug delivery platform is composed of thin carbon (graphene)-coated gold nanoparticles, cancer-targeting proteins, and lipids. This platform, which delivers an anti-cancer drug (doxorubicin), releases antisense therapeutics, and converts tissue-transparent light into heat, can effectively induce apoptotic signals in cancer cells and suppress tumor growth at a high efficiency.

By developing novel smart multifunctional drug delivery platforms that use nano-biomaterials, Lee’s research group is aimed at achieving better treatment of neurological disorders. The team believes the new platform may pave a new way to treat not only cancers but also other diseases, since the combined delivery of chemotherapeutics and gene therapeutics can be widely used for addressing a variety of problems such as neurological disorders, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and musculoskeletal diseases.

Journal: Advanced Functional Materials
Authors: Letao Yang, Tae‐Hyung Kim, Hyeon‐Yeol Cho, Jeffrey Luo, Jong‐Min Lee, Sy‐Tsong Dean Chueng, Yannan Hou, Perry To‐Tien Yin, Jiyou Han, Jong Hoon Kim, Bong Geun Chung, Jeong‐Woo Choi, Ki‐Bum Lee*
Corresponding author: Prof. Ki-Bum Lee
DOI: 10.1002/adfm.202006918


Authors from CCB

Ki Bum Lee Ph 
             KiBum Lee, Ph.D.

Letao Yang Ph
            Letao Yang, Ph.D.

Yannan Hou
          Yannan Hou, Ph.D.