Nanomedicine for prostate cancer

In a nutshell

Looking into better ways to deliver chemotherapy to prostate cancer patients. Standard chemotherapy can’t tell cancerous cells apart from healthy ones and can cause serious side effects.

This project is to develop a new technique to target chemotherapy drugs directly to the cancerous cells; making it more effective and reducing side effects.

Why we funded it

Chemotherapy is a commonly used therapy for prostate cancer but it can cause serious side effects, because it can’t tell apart cancerous cells from healthy ones.

The researchers carrying out this project work in a new area called nanomedicine. This uses really small particles (called nano-carriers) to deliver a drug to where it is needed. In this case, it will be used to target chemotherapy drugs to prostate cancer cells. By specifically killing the cancerous cells it is hoped that side effects will be reduced. The nano-carriers can recognise prostate cancer cells wherever they may be in the body, so this technique could also provide an effective treatment for cancer that has spread to other parts of the body (metastasised).

Progress so far (Year 3 of 5)

The team decided to use PSA protein, which is expressed at much higher levels in cancerous than healthy cells, to target the nano-carriers containing their drug directly to prostate cancer cells. They’ve made good progress on this so far.

They have made and purified a type of drug that isn’t active, and so has no effect, unless it comes into contact with PSA protein. This means that it only becomes activated in prostate cancer cells. So far, they’re still perfecting the drug and the nano-carrier separately.

They still have a bit of work to do to make the nano-carriers work as well as possible, and they will be doing this in the coming months. Once they’ve done that, they aim to encapsulate the drug in the nanocarrier and then test how well it is taken up and activated by prostate cancer cells, as well as doing some studies to check the toxicity levels of their new system.

Grant information

Institution - Queen's University Belfast 
Researcher - Dr Wafa Al-Jamal
Grant award - £749,218
Duration - 2014-2019
Reference - CDF12-002 Al-Jamal