Gold nanostars: a new vehicle for targeted drug delivery

What you need to know

  • Current therapies for prostate cancer can unfortunately cause unwanted side-effects and the cancer often becomes resistant to treatment after a while.
  • Dr Robert Kypta, Dr Fang Xie and Professor Alexandra Porter from Imperial College London have joined forces to develop a system designed to transport drugs directly to cancer cells and thereby reduce debilitating side effects.
  • In this project, they are developing a novel drug delivery system that uses gold nanostars that have been modified to specifically recognise prostate cancer cells. The system will be tested in the lab, to see if it could be used to effectively target and kill prostate cancer cells.
We envision a new type of therapy for men with prostate cancer, one that delivers specific and effective drugs that are only toxic to cancer cells, thus avoiding secondary side effects.
Dr Robert Kypta

Reducing side-effects in prostate cancer treatment

While current treatments for prostate cancer can be very effective at killing cancer cells, they may also affect healthy cells in the body, which can result in debilitating side-effects. The team proposes to develop a way of delivering cancer-killing drugs straight to the tumour so that they only target the cancer cells and not the healthy cells.

Dr Kypta will first develop a way of identifying the prostate cancer cells. He will do this by producing a molecule (called an antibody) which can bind to a specific protein, known as a Wnt receptor, found on the surface of prostate cancer cells.  He’ll then check that this antibody can bind effectively to its specific target on the cancer cells, to be sure that the cancer drugs are delivered to the right place.

Delivering drugs directly to prostate cancer cells

Having developed a method of finding the cancer cells, Dr Xie and Prof Porter will look at a way to use the antibody to deliver the cancer killing drugs directly to them, by using tiny star-shaped gold nanoparticles as a vehicle. These gold nanostars are designed to detect the tumour cells and make it easier for the drugs to get into the cells.

The team will then work together to find the optimal amounts of antibody and chemotherapy drug to load on the gold nanostars to identify and kill the prostate cancer cells. They will then investigate just how good this method of drug delivery is at targeting and killing tumour cells.

Evidence for further studies

By the end of this project, the team will have confirmed the best design for this delivery system. The system will have been tested and optimised so it can effectively recognise prostate cancer cells and deliver drugs to kill them. The team will also test if the system can work on cells resistant to hormone therapy, which could provide new options for men who are no longer responding to current treatment.

The next steps for this project will be to further test and refine this system in the lab before advancing into clinical trials.

Grant information

Reference – RIA19-ST2-009

Researcher – Dr Robert Kypta

Institution – Imperial College London

Award - £157,116