‘Chemo Spray’ As Alternative to Intravenous Cancer Therapy?

Chemotherapy is the treatment of cancer with drugs aimed at destroying diseased cells. But pumping indiscriminate medications through your veins can lead to adverse side effects: fatigue, hair loss, infection, weight changes, mood swings, fertility problems, and a host of other nasty reactions. So, researchers in South Korea developed a sort of “chemo spray”—a new technique that showers a drug like doxorubicin directly onto the tissue surface near the tumor site. Compared to conventional intravenous therapy, the topical spray promises lower risk of systemic toxicity and better healing effects, according to Phys.org. There’s a reason no one has patented this system before: It’s not easy to crack the chemo code. The team, led by Pohang University of Science and Technology professor Hyung Joon Cha, jumped over numerous hurdles to develop their nanoparticle-based spray. Nanoparticles containing chemotherapy drugs and bioengineered mussel adhesive protein are sprayed onto the tissue surface of cancer cells after surgery (via Hyung Joon Cha et al.) They first had to find a way for the particles to stick to tumor cells swimming in bodily fluids. Taking a cue from marine mussels, which produce a special “mussel glue” to adhere to underwater rocks, researchers engineered their own mussel adhesive proteins (MAPs). As an added bonus, the MAPs contain components that allow drug-carrying nanoparticles to enter and destroy cancer cells but bypass healthy ones. Because drug release is pH-responsive, Phys.org reported, highly toxic drugs remain enveloped in the nanoparticles until they reach their acidic destination. The sprayable treatment also features the amino acid DOPA, which helps surface adhesion while depleting the iron in cancer cells, weakening and eventually killing the deadly organisms. “The mussel adhesive protein-based sprayable sticky nanoparticles not only facilitate site-directed administration of drugs via a convenient spraying process during the surgical procedure, but also induce an effective anticancer effect based on the significantly enhanced drug retention and absorption efficiency in the cancerous lesion,” Cha told Phys.org. “Therefore, our nanoparticle-based localized drug delivery system can compensate for the disadvantages of low drug delivery efficiency and systemic toxicity in systemic delivery system.” Moving forward, Cha & Co. hopes to extend their spray method to different types of therapies, in an effort to treat more diseases. A paper on the sprayable cancer therapy was published in a recent issue of the journal ACS Nano.