When a drug enters the body, it doesn’t generally target a particular part of the body. Paracetamol, for example, affects the whole body but its effects are felt at the source of pain.
Likewise, cancer drugs can be imprecise; some enter the bloodstream to treat cancer at various anatomical points in the body, some are aimed at a particular region but even then, if a tumor is besieged by a toxic drug, the healthy tissue surrounding the target can also be affected.
Many treatments for cancer – and other conditions – are becoming more targeted with the use of smart drug delivery systems, many based on nanoparticles. Researchers in Australia hope to improve cancer drug delivery with a new method to encourage polymer molecules to self-assemble into non-spherical nanoparticles.
Very little in nature is perfectly spherical. Most biological structures like cells, bacteria and viruses come in a variety of shapes including tubes, rods, and squashed spheres, or ellipsoids. But it has proved very difficult for scientists to synthesise particles that are not perfectly round.
Professor Pall Thordarson, School of Chemistry, The University of New South Wales (UNSW)