Some of the most dangerous cancers are those that can outmaneuver the very drugs designed to defeat them, but researchers are now reporting a new Trojan-horse approach. In a preliminary study in the journal ACS Nano focusing on a type of breast cancer that is highly resistant to current therapies, they describe a way to sneak small particles into tumor cells, lower their defenses and attack them with drugs, potentially making the therapy much more effective.
Paula T. Hammond and colleagues at the Koch Institute of Integrative Cancer Research at MIT note that triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is an aggressive disease that is difficult to treat with standard-of-care therapy, and patients' prognoses are poor. These cancer cells evade treatment by ramping up the production of certain proteins that protect tumors from chemotherapy drugs. Interfering with this process could give anticancer drugs a better chance at killing resistant tumors. Recent research into molecules called small interfering RNAs, or siRNAs, is opening doors into possible new treatments using this approach. These molecules can halt the production of particular proteins, so they are ideal candidates for dialing down the levels of protective proteins in tumors. But there are challenges to using siRNAs as part of a cancer therapy, so Hammond's team set out to address them with novel molecular engineering approaches.