Researchers renew obsolete concept by using folate for cancer drug delivery

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September 16, 2019

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By Raymond A. MacDougall

Effective therapy achieved by technique that avoids cell endosome trap

NIBIB-funded biomedical engineers at the Ohio State University (OSU) have demonstrated a new method for delivering an anti-cancer drug in a study that tested the effect in animal models. When formulated within a membrane sac, called an exosome, and when paired with the B-vitamin folate, the anti-cancer drug can enter the cell without being sealed off within the cell by another sac, called an endosome. Endosome trapping has been a formidable challenge to overcome in drug delivery.

The approach, developed with support from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), both at NIH, works on the principle that receptors for folate are expressed in abundance on cancer cells, but to a more moderate degree on healthy cells. In their report in the August 22, 2019 online Journal of Controlled Release, the authors suggest that their approach, tested on mice, will renew the interest in folate as a broad target for human cancer therapy.

“Folate targeting has been an elusive approach to cancer therapy,” said David Rampulla, Ph.D., director of the NIBIB Division of Discovery Science and Technology. “This team has demonstrated an efficient drug delivery system and shown how a nanoparticle combined with folate can efficiently target cancer cells. It is the kind of advance that could represent the basis for much-needed cancer therapies.”

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