Delivering Medicine Directly into a Tumor

Researchers at Burnham Institute for Medical Research at University of California, Santa Barbara have identified a peptide (a chain of amino acids) that specifically recognizes and penetrates cancerous tumors but not normal tissues. The peptide was also shown to deliver diagnostic particles and medicines into the tumor. This new peptide, called iRGD, could dramatically enhance both cancer detection and treatment. The work is being published December 8 in the journal Cancer Cell.

Led by Erkki Ruoslahti, M.D., Ph.D., distinguished Burnham professor at UCSB, this research was built on Dr. Ruoslahti’s previous discovery of “vascular zip codes,” which showed that blood vessels in different tissues (including diseased tissues) have different signatures. These signatures can be detected and used to dock drugs onto vessels inside the diseased tissue. In addition to homing in on tumor vessels, the new iRGD peptide penetrates them to bind inside the tumor. Previous peptides have been shown to recognize and bind to tumors, but were unable to go beyond the tumor blood vessels.

“This peptide has extraordinary tumor-penetrating properties, and I hope that it will make possible substantial improvements in cancer treatment,” says Dr. Ruoslahti. “In our animal studies, the iRGD peptide has increased the efficacy of a number of anti-cancer drugs without increasing their side effects. If these animal experiments translate into human cancers, we would be able to treat cancer more effectively than before, while greatly reducing the side effects the patient would suffer.”

The novel iRGD peptide, identified by using phage display for a peptide that binds to the blood vessels of pancreatic and bone tumors, was tested to determine its ability to penetrate tumors. Researchers injected fluorescent-labeled iRGD into tumor-bearing mice and found that the peptide accumulated in a variety of tumors, including prostate, breast, pancreatic, brain and other types. In addition, the peptide only targeted the tumors and did not accumulate in normal tissue.

Iron oxide nanoworms, which can be visualized by magnetic resonance imaging, were coupled to the peptide and shown to penetrate the tumors, whereas uncoupled nanoworms could not. This demonstrates that iRGD can deliver diagnostics to tumors. The anti-cancer drug Abraxane was also shown to target, penetrate and spread more within tumor tissue when coupled to iRGD than with other formulations.

About Burnham Institute for Medical Research

Burnham Institute for Medical Research is dedicated to discovering the fundamental molecular causes of disease and devising the innovative therapies of tomorrow. Burnham, with operations in California and Florida, is one of the fastest-growing research institutes in the country. The institute ranks among the top four institutions nationally for NIH grant funding and among the top organizations worldwide for its research impact. For the past decade (1999-2009), Burnham ranked first worldwide in the fields of biology and biochemistry for the impact of its research publications (defined by citations per publication), according to the Institute for Scientific Information.

Heart attack symptoms: Know what signals a medical emergency

Know the symptoms of a heart attack so you can call for emergency assistance.
Heart attack symptoms vary widely. The symptoms you experience may be different from those experienced by a relative or neighbor. For instance, you may have only minor chest pain while someone else has excruciating pain. In addition, women often have different heart attack symptoms than do men.
One thing applies to everyone, though: If you suspect you're having a heart attack, call for emergency medical help immediately. Don't waste time trying to diagnose the symptoms yourself.Typical heart attack symptomsSymptom Description Chest discomfort or pain This discomfort or pain can feel like a tight ache, pressure, fullness or squeezing in the center of your chest lasting more than a few minutes. This discomfort may come and go.Upper body pain Pain or discomfort may spread beyond your chest to your shoulders, arms, back, neck, teeth or jaw. You may have upper body pain with no chest discomfort.Stomach pain Pain may extend downward into your abdominal area and may feel like heartburn.Shortness of breath You may pant for breath or try to take in deep breaths. This often occurs before you develop chest discomfort.Anxiety You may feel a sense of doom or feel as if you're having a panic attack for no apparent reason.Lightheadedness You may feel dizzy or feel like you might pass out.Sweating You may suddenly break into a sweat with cold, clammy skin.
Nausea and vomiting You may feel sick to your stomach or vomit.Common heart attack symptoms in womenWomen may have all, none, many or a few of the typical heart attack symptoms. For women, as for men, the most common symptom of a heart attack is some type of pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest. But women are more likely than are men to also have symptoms unrelated to chest pain, such as:* Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort* Shortness of breath* Nausea or vomiting
* Abdominal pain or "heartburn"* Sweating* Lightheadedness or dizziness* Unusual or unexplained fatigueHeart attack symptoms demand emergency helpSome heart attacks have the classic symptoms as portrayed on television or in the movies — where someone clutches their chest and writhes in excruciating pain. Not all heart attacks announce themselves so clearly, though. In fact, most heart attacks begin with much more subtle symptoms — with only mild pain or discomfort. And your symptoms may come and go. Don't be tempted to downplay your symptoms or brush them off as indigestion or anxiety.Getting treatment quickly improves your chance of survival and minimizes damage from a heart attack. Don't "tough out" these symptoms for more than five minutes. Call 911 or other emergency medical services for help. If you don't have access to emergency medical services, have someone drive you to the nearest hospital. Drive yourself only as a last resort, if there are absolutely no other options.

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