A recent landmark study by Northwestern University researchers on starving cancer cells to death with golden nanoparticles may lead to new treatment alternatives for lymphoma patients.
Regular readers of this column know that blood cancer research is the super highway to curing cancer. Most cancer treatments and breakthroughs have originated through lymphoma and leukemia research and have benefited patients with other cancers and diseases. http://www.examiner.com/article/blood-cancer-research-the-super-highway-to-curing-cancer-runs-through-chicago.
Chicago can be proud that the super highway to curing cancer often runs through the windy city. One important example is Dr. Janet Rowley’s ground working research on the Philadelphia Chromosome that led to the development of Gleevec (and now other kinase inhibitors) that transformed chronic myeloid leukemia from a near death sentence for patients diagnosed with CML to a chronic condition treated with oral medication with patients going strong 15 to 20 years later. http://www.examiner.com/article/chronic-myeloid-leukemia-cml-awareness-and-information.
The latest exciting breakthrough comes from the research of Dr. Leo Gordon and Dr. C. Shad Thaxton of Northwestern University. These doctors have demonstrated that lymphoma cancer cells can be wiped out through the use of golden nanoparticles. A nanoparticle is a small object that behaves as a whole unit with respect to its transport and properties. Essentially, the doctors tricked lymphoma cells and then starved them to death.
Here’s how it works. It appears that the favorite food of at least B-cell lymphoma cells – and most lymphomas in the United States are B-cell (as opposed to T-cell) – is HDL cholesterol. The researchers employed a synthetic nanoparticle that acts like a double agent. When the particle engages the cell, it actually plugs it up and blocks cholesterol from entering, depriving the lymphoma cells of an essential nutrient and ultimately killing them. The nanoparticle closely mimics the size, shape, and surface chemistry of natural HDL particles. The key difference is that it contains a gold particle at its core. When the nanoparticle is incubated with human B-cell lymphoma cells or used to treat a mouse with the human tumor, it attaches to the lymphoma cell. The gold particle’s spongy surface sucks out its cholesterol while the gold core prevents the cell from absorbing more cholesterol typically carried in the core of natural HDL particles.
The research demonstrates the importance of collaborative efforts as well as good timing. Dr. Gordon is co-director of the hematologic malignancy program at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University and one of the world’s leading hematologist oncologists. Dr. Thaxton, a highly regarded urologist and researcher, until recently was not a familiar name in hematology oncology circles. Indeed, Dr. Thaxton originally developed the nanoparticle as a possible therapy for heart disease.
So how did Dr. Thaxton’s work become connected to lymphoma? Dr. Gordon was in the audience for a lecture given by Dr. Thaxton. Dr. Gordon knew that patients with advanced forms of B-cell lymphoma sometimes experience drops in cholesterol level. The two doctors began to collaborate and tested the HDL nanoparticle alone and also as a transportation vehicle for cancer drugs. Their early data shows that the HDL nanoparticles do not appear toxic to other human cells normally targeted by HDLs. The findings are encouraging and may eventually become a nontoxic treatment for B-cell lymphomas that does not involve chemotherapy.
Dr. Gordon and Dr. Thaxton will discuss their exciting findings and the implications on Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. Central Time on the Battling and Beating Cancer Television Show. The show airs on CAN TV Channel 21 in Chicago and streams live worldwide at www.cantv.org/live and www.chicagobloodcancer.org.