“Magic Bullet” against Cancer
Since its establishment in 2006, the Amrita Center for Nanosciences and Molecular Medicine (ACNSMM) has made leaps and bounds in nanotechnology research, making it one of the leaders in the field not only in India, but worldwide. Dr. Manzoor Koyakutty is one of the researchers at the forefront of the ACNSMM work concerning multifunctional nanomedicines for targeting key oncogenic pathways in drug resistant cancer cells.
Dr. Manzoor spoke to the students and faculty of School of Biotechnology on March 30, 2016 concerning his work involving nanomedicines as a means to treat cancer. Having a background based mostly in physics, Dr. Manzoor first explained his understanding of biological problems as being complex and nonlinear. In the physical world, which is much more understood, there are linear relationships between variables and these relationships can be defined logically through mathematics with limited experimentation. On the other hand, when dealing the biological questions, cause and effect are nonlinearly connected through a large number of seemingly unrelated variables. Dr. Manzoor cited various examples for this phenomenon, including the seemingly random and unpredictable bifurcation of blood vessels during angiogenesis.
This basic understanding in the complicated nature of biology brought Dr. Manzoor to the topic of discussion – how to battle the complex mechanisms of cancer via nanomedicines. Nanomedicines are ideal as anti-cancer drugs as they can each be individually engineered differently to provide different drugs to specific target. The current state of the nanotechnology research has brought about the rise of nano-sized implants, therapeutics, and diagnostics. Dr. Manzoor then expanded on some anti-cancer nanomedicines he and his team designed against drug resistant chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and gliomas.
Even after the rise of imatinib - the “magic bullet” against cancer – it was seen that many cases of CML exhibited drug resistance and recurrence of cancer. Dr. Manzoor designed a nanomedicine which included a nano-shell covering a drug; both of which are required for high efficacy as an anti-cancer agent. Thus an extremely successful injectable nanomedicine for leukemia was discovered and is still undergoing preclinical work.
Gliomas are an extremely aggressive type of tumor located in the brain. A common procedure for the treatment of gliomas is to first remove the tumor and then implant a drug, commonly known as Gliadel, into the cavity which releases anti-cancer drug over six or seven days. As a cost-effective and more efficient alternative to Gliadel, Dr. Manzoor came up with a nanofiber solution. Nanofibers were electrospun and each loaded with a drug. These implants, which resemble bandages, each contain about a million fibers and after characterization and assessment of these implants it was seen that these were very effective in the seven day period of the drug release.