New DNA Trojan horse cancer drug delivery method trialled

The DNA Trojan Horse capsules seen under an electron microscopeshow the structures empty (left) and loaded with the cancer drug daunorubicin (right) - image courtesy of The Ohio State University.
The DNA Trojan Horse capsules seen under an electron microscope show the structures empty (left) and loaded with the cancer drug daunorubicin (right) - image courtesy of The Ohio State University.

Researchers in the US have announced a new 'DNA Trojan horse' approach for delivering anti-cancer drugs using DNA, which they believe will be significantly more effective than previous technologies.

Scientists from Ohio State University have developed a way to create what they call: a DNA Trojan horse capsule.

Within this DNA capsule made of nano-scale ‘DNA origami’ structures, the scientists inserted a common anti-cancer drug. When this DNA capsule enters the body, it is absorbed exclusively by cancer cells.

Upon absorption, the ‘Trojan Horse’ then dissolves and opens up, releases the drug within, and kills the cancer cell.

This method is particularly useful in targeting cancers which have grown resistant to standard drug delivery methods.

Specifically the researchers tested their method on mice suffering from acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) that had developed a resistance to the drug daunorubicin.

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“Cancer cells have novel ways of resisting drugs, […] and the exciting part of packaging the drug this way is that we can circumvent those defenses so that the drug accumulates in the cancer cell and causes it to die,” said John Byrd a professor of internal medicine at Ohio State University.

A cancer specific DNA Trojan horse

Aside from defeating drug-resistant cancer cells, the researchers also believe the DNA packing technique could be also used to improve the targeting of cancer cells.

They theorise this could be achieved by modifying the shape and rigidity of the DNA package, making it only able to be consumed by a certain cell type.

“Potentially, we can also tailor these structures to make them deliver drugs selectively to cancer cells and not to other parts of the body where they can cause side effects,” said Byrd.

Given the promise of this technology, the team behind it wants to work to develop a more streamlined manufacturing process for these DNA capsules.

With such a process worked out, it would be possible to tailor drugs to a large variety of different drug-resistant cancers.

Nonetheless, the technology is still only in a developmental stage, and has yet to be trialed in humans, so it may be many years before it sees widespread adoption.

How small is nano - image courtesy of Ohio State University
How small is nano – image courtesy of Ohio State University