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Gold nanoparticles can activate drugs inside tumors

Jesus Santamaría, Scientific Director of Unit 9 of NANBIOSIS has participated in a study that shows the ability of gold nanoparticles to generate in situ potent anticancer drugs from inert molecules thanks to a mechanism of elimination of terminal chemical groups that nanometric gold is able to catalyze. Gold is ideal for this catalytic role due to its high biocompatibility.

These results, published in the journal Angewandte Chemie, offer new hope in the fight against cancer and have been obtained thanks to the collaboration of scientists of Unit 9 of NANBIOSIS and, Víctor Sebastián, Silvia Irusta and Jesús Santamaría, with researchers from the Center for Cancer Research at the University of Edinburgh, led by Dr. Unciti-Broceta.

The work reveals the possibility of carrying out catalysis in biological means using tiny particles of gold. These gold nanoparticles, camouflaged in a resin microcapsule implanted in the brain of a zebrafish, have succeeded in catalyzing a chemical reaction generating fluorescent compounds.

Significant practical importance

“The main problem of chemotherapy treatments are the side effects in various organs due to the toxicity of the molecules that are used to fight cancer. For this reason, alternative routes are explored from nanotechnology, for example, transporting drugs to the tumor using nanoparticles or alternative treatments to drugs, such as hyperthermia, elevation of local temperature, obtained with nanoparticles”, says Jesús Santamaría.

The conclusions of this work suggest a different way: the drug would be supplied to the patient in its inert form and only converted to the toxic form locally, thanks to the catalysis of the nanoparticles that a surgeon would implant in the tumor.


Article of reference

Pérez-López, A. M., Rubio-Ruiz, B., Sebastián, V., Hamilton, L., Adam, C., Bray, T. L., Irusta, S., Brennan, P. M., Lloyd-Jones, G. C., Sieger, D., Santamaría, J. and Unciti-Broceta, A. (2017). “Gold-Triggered Uncaging Chemistry in Living Systems”. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed.. doi:10.1002/anie.201708379

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J. Santamaría, U9 NANBIOSIS gets 2.5M € to develop a revolutionary cancer treatment

Jesús Santamaría, Scientific Director of Unit 9 of NANBIOSIS, has obtained, for the second time in six years, an ERC Advanced Grant, one of the most prestigious and extremely competitive European research grants, restricted to senior researchers with a research trajectory of high quality for more than ten years.

The CADENCE (Catalytic Dual-Function Devices Against Cancer) project will be financed by the EU with 2.5M € to work for five years with a powerful team: four own researchers and seven others to be selected from candidates from all over the world.

With this project the researchers propose a revolutionary cancer treatment to be developed and tested. “The central idea of ​​the project is to consider the tumor as a chemical reactor in which catalysts can be introduced. A catalyst is agent  capable of directing chemical reactions and, in this case, would destroy molecules that are useful for the tumor and generate toxic products inside the tumor. The project thus has the potential to add a new member -catalysis- to the toolbox in oncology And if we could do within the tumor cells themselves we would have a very powerful tool. It would be to use catalysis as an arsenal in oncology “,  explained Jesús Santamaría.  But in addition to developing catalysts that can work successfully under intratumoral conditions (temperature, oxygen concentration, pH), a method must be devised to bring those catalysts selectively into the tumor either through the capillaries by which it extends or Or inside mesenchymal stem cells, as a Trojan horse. Finally, the project contemplates activating the catalysts remotely by infrared radiation, once they have achieved their goal. There are already initial results of the group that allow to glimpse possibilities of achieving these three objectives. A central part of the project will be the synthesis of catalytic nanomaterials. For this, the capabilities of NANBIOSIS-ICTS will be intensely used

Jesús Santamaría, believes that CADENCE has been selected because it is a new idea and, a priori, could be used in all types of tumors. “It’s new, it’s interesting and we’re going to contract the best researchers, because we’re going to need them,” he said. Among others, they will need experts in oncology, in photocatalysis and in modulation of bioreactors.  .

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