Nanoparticles release drugs only at the site of lung cancer

8 March 2015

 German scientists have developed nanoparticles that release drugs only in the presence of lung tumour cells in human and mouse lungs. The particles were developed by Scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum M√ľnchen (HMGU) and the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universit√§t (LMU) in Munich who were working in a joint project at the Nanosystems Initiative Munich Excellence Cluster.

In the journal, ACS Nano, the scientists reported that this approach led to a significant increase in the effectiveness of current cancer medicines in lung tumour tissue.

Nanoparticles are extremely small particles that can be modified for a variety of uses in the medical field. For example, they can be engineered to be able to transport medicines specifically to the disease site while not interfering with healthy body parts.

Tumour tissue in the lung contains high concentrations of certain proteases, which are enzymes that break down and cut specific proteins. The scientists took advantage of this by modifying the nanoparticles with a protective layer that only these proteases can break down, a process that then releases the drug. Protease concentrations in the healthy lung tissue are too low to cleave this protective layer and so the medicines stay protected in the nanocarrier.

"Using these nanocarriers we can very selectively release a drug such as a chemotherapeutic agent specifically at the lung tumour," reports research group leader Meiners. "We observed that the drug's effectiveness in the tumour tissue was 10 to 25 times greater compared to when the drugs were used on their own. At the same time, this approach also makes it possible to decrease the total dose of medicines and consequently to reduce undesirable effects."

Further studies will now be directed to examine the safety of the nanocarriers in vivo and verify the clinical efficacy in an advanced lung tumour mouse model.


van  Rijt, S. et al. 2015. Protease Mediated Release of Chemotherapeutics From Mesoporous Silica Nanoparticles to Ex Vivo Human and Mouse Lung Tumors, ACS Nano. doi: 10.1021/nn5070343. Link to publication:

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