Israeli, Spanish researchers create an 'Iron Dome' for cancer - study

Raise the efficacy of cancer nanotherapies with remote-controlled delivery of chemo drugs at precise release rates.

A patient receives chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer (photo credit: REUTERS/ERIC GAILLARD)
A patient receives chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer
(photo credit: REUTERS/ERIC GAILLARD)

An international team from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU) and the Instituto de Microelectronica in Barcelona have developed metal iron-based biodegradable MAgnetoPlasmonic nanocapsules (MAPsules) to eradicate tumors via remote-controlled local delivery of chemotherapy at ultra-low drug concentrations. This works while also boosting drug therapeutic action and minimizing damage to surrounding tissues.

The findings of this study, published in ACS Nano Journal under the title “Efficient Tumor Eradication at Ultralow Drug Concentration via Externally Controlled and Boosted Metallic Iron Magnetoplasmonic Nanocapsules” and featured on the cover of the latest issue, demonstrated positive therapeutic effects of mapsules in animals carrying human breast tumors.

A helping hand for chemotherapy

Prof. Ofra Benny’s laboratory at HU’s School of Pharmacy and Faculty of Medicine and Dr. Borja Sepulveda and his team at the Spanish institute made the mapsules to guide chemotherapy directly to a target area and deliver treatment at controlled release rates.

This study, led by Arnon Fluksman, a doctoral student in Benny’s lab, fabricated and evaluated mapsules in various cancer cell models and found that they maximized anti-cancer activity in the tumor area while cutting side effects.

“With over 18 million cancer cases worldwide in 2020, scientists and physicians have grappled with advancing local drug delivery methods to improve treatment outcomes,” Fluksman said.

“Despite the promise of overcoming chemotherapy side effects, nanotherapies have been unable to meet expectations due to the low nanoparticle concentration that ultimately reaches the solid tumor. Our unique method enables us to remotely control the molecules with the help of a magnet, deliver drugs to the precise location of the tumor and control drug release rates.”

 MAPSULES structural properties. (credit: ACS NANO JOURNAL) MAPSULES structural properties. (credit: ACS NANO JOURNAL)

Maximizing therapeutic impact

Results also showed that laser irradiation of mapsules could increase therapeutic impact by generating heat locally in the tumor site. These findings introduce the first design of a full nano-scale carrier containing large doses of chemotherapeutics with a thin external metal coating, effectively delivering chemotherapy to a solid tumor site.

“Creating an ‘Iron Dome’ of sorts for cancer, mapsules not only kill cancerous cells, but also protect the patient from unnecessary damage to healthy tissue, thus augmenting cancer treatment outcomes.”

Prof. Ofra Benny

“Creating an ‘Iron Dome’ of sorts for cancer, mapsules not only kill cancerous cells, but also protect the patient from unnecessary damage to healthy tissue, thus augmenting cancer treatment outcomes,” Benny said. “With our discovery of mapsules’ efficacy, we can advance our solutions and offer a wide range of materials that can be manipulated and activated remotely to support a wide variety of therapies for diseases beyond cancer.”