Gold nanoparticles and cancer treatment

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Published: 23 Nov 2016
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Bas Bavelaar - University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

Bas Bavelaar speaks with ecancertv at NCRI 2016 about a study looking at gold nanoparticles targeting telomeres, this cancer therapy overcomes the “immortality” of tumour cells.

In our study we described the synthesis and in vitro characterisation of gold nanoparticles targeting telomerase. Telomerase is a ribonucleoprotein which is expressed in the nucleus of cancer cells; it’s upregulated in about 80-90% of the cancers. The reason we are interested in targeting this is that a lot of recent research showed that inhibiting telomerase results in radio-sensitisation of these cells. So the rationale behind our research is to develop radiolabels, oligonucleotides that target telomerase which is adsorbed to a gold nanoparticle for in vitro stability and in vivo stability. So that’s the reason why we developed like this.

What were the processes?

We started off by developing this probe, this telomerase targeting probe, which showed actually profound inhibition of telomerase but also in vitro cell kill. The main reason why we started to develop gold nanoparticles was that this oligonucleotide was very effective but couldn’t pass the cell membrane without a transfectant. To solve this issue we started to look into nanotechnology and that’s the reason why we introduced the gold nanoparticle as a construct in this manner.

What were your findings?

We found in our study that adding this oligonucleotide to a gold nanoparticle increases the cellular and nuclear uptake; that adding this telomerase inhibitor to gold nanoparticles showed telomerase inhibition in vitro and we showed that adding this gold nanoparticle construct to cells in vitro showed a telomerase dependent cell kill of cancer cells.

What are your next steps?

It’s still early days and data is not published yet. We’re now running the in vivo studies so we’re looking into the bio-distribution of this compound and we are starting tumour growth delay studies. We hope to develop in the long run a therapy which is effective in a broad range of tumours because of the expression of telomerase in a wide range of tumours.