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New Way to Kill Lymphoma Without Chemotherapy

Golden nanoparticles starve cancer cells to death (Jan. 22)

Researchers at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine have discovered that lymphoma cells can be “starved” to death by depriving them of what appears to be a favorite food: high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.

The researchers used a new nanoparticle that acts like a secret double agent. It appears to the cancerous lymphoma cell like a preferred meal — natural HDL. But when the particle engages the cell, it actually plugs it up and blocks cholesterol from entering. Deprived of an essential nutrient, the cell eventually dies.

In the new study, synthetic HDL nanoparticles killed B-cell lymphoma, the most common form of the disease, in cultured human cells, and inhibited human B-cell lymphoma tumor growth in mice. The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Recent studies have shown that B-cell lymphoma depends on the uptake of natural HDL, from which it derives fat content, such as cholesterol.

The new nanoparticle — originally developed as a possible therapy for heart disease — closely mimics the size, shape, and surface chemistry of natural HDL particles, but it has one key difference: a 5-nanometer gold particle at its core. When the nanoparticle attaches to a lymphoma cell, the gold particle’s spongy surface sucks out the cell’s cholesterol, while the gold core prevents the cell from absorbing the cholesterol that is typically carried in the core of natural HDL particles.

“At first I was heavily focused on developing nanoparticles that could remove cholesterol from cells, especially those involved in heart disease,” said researcher C. Shad Thaxton, MD. “The lymphoma work has broadened this focus to how the HDL nanoparticles impact both the removal and uptake of cholesterol by cells. We discovered the particles are multi-taskers.”

The study also showed that natural HDL did not kill the cells or inhibit tumor growth. The nanoparticle was essential to starve the lymphoma cell.

Source: Northwestern University; January 22, 2013.

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