Detroit’s Wayne State University Researchers Develop Technology to Reverse Drug Resistance in Cancers


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Arun Iyer, left, and Samaresh Sau, both of Wayne State University, have developed a technology that works with chemotherapy to reverse drug resistance in cancer.

Photo courtesy of Wayne State University

Researchers at Detroit-based Wayne State University have announced they have developed a nanoplatform technology that works in combination with existing chemotherapeutic drugs that may reverse drug resistance in renal cell carcinoma, a kidney cancer.

Drug resistance to chemotherapy is a significant clinical and financial burden in renal cell carcinoma and other types of cancers. The resistance can be caused by hypoxia, a decreased level of oxygen in the tumor cells and infiltration of tumor-promoting immune cells that aid tumor growth. 

Arun Iyer, principal investigator on the project and assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences in the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences at Wayne State, and Samaresh Sau, co-investigator on the project and research associate in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences in the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, are researching whether it is possible to use tumor hypoxia-directed nanoparticles to attack the root cause of the problem.

“Our tumor hypoxia directed nanoparticle used in conjunction with the FDA-approved renal cell carcinoma treatment, Sorafenib, has had positive outcomes in our animal trials,” says Iyer. “The nanoparticles can deliver the payload selectively to tumor tissue and penetrate deep into the tumor core and provoke significant tumor inhibition with marked safety.”

Along with reversing drug resistance and helping the immune system work properly, the targeted approach is also expected to save money by repurposing existing drugs to function better and have reduced chemotherapy side effects.

“This hypoxia targeting nanoparticles is not only effective in inhibiting tumor-promoting immune cells but also enhancing function of tumor-killing immune cells,” says Sau. “Another important aspect of the nanoparticle is that it can precisely diagnose renal tumors non-invasively that can be utilized for tumor detection, staging, and surgery in the clinical setting.”

It also has the potential to treat other cancers that have been difficult to treat or have become drug-resistant to current therapies.

“This new approach of using our nanoplatform will reopen doors that were once closed because drugs that had become ineffective to cancer treatment are now once again usable and effective,” says Iyer. “It is our hope that this research will one day soon be used in clinics for treating patients.”

The study is titled “Tumor hypoxia directed multimodal nanotherapy for overcoming drug resistance in renal cell carcinoma and reprogramming macrophages” and appeared in the Aug. 30 online version of Biomaterials. Support for the research was provided by Wayne State University and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

An application for patent protection has been filed by Wayne State University’s Office of Technology Commercialization.

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