A new approach to designing anti-cancer drugs developed by researchers at N.C. State University and UNC-Chapel Hill shows just how complex the products of the rapidly emerging field of engineered drug therapies can be.
The nanoparticle they created is essentially a tiny machine that performs a sequence of tasks in a pre-set, specific order to overcome cancer cells. It persuades a cancer cell to latch onto it, then it uses first one method, then another to kill the cells.
“They are programmed almost like a computer so that they tackle the problem step by step,” said Zhen Gu, senior author of a paper on the research and an assistant professor in the joint biomedical engineering program at both universities.
The particle isn’t exactly a drug itself. Tianyue Jiang, a lead author of the paper who works in Gu’s lab, calls it a “drug delivery vehicle.”