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Experimental Theranostic Nanoplexes for Prostate Cancer Therapy

August 14, 2012 -- Imaging techniques have become a hot research concentration in the field of diagnostics, especially in prostate cancer. The latest technique, known as “theranostic imaging,” combines diagnosis with therapy and is particularly suitable for complex diseases like cancer. The highly integrated design of a theranostic imaging incorporates multiple functions such as cancer cell targeting and ultra-sensitive imaging and therapy all in one system.

This new study comes from a team of investigators at Johns Hopkins Medicine, detailing the design, development and testing of a platform for the theranostic imaging of prostate cancer. Dr. Zaver Bhujwalla, lead author of the study, PCF-funded scientist and co-investigator Dr. Martin Pomper and team developed a ”theranostic nanoplex,” a nano-platform that delivers inhibitory agents only to cancer cells, avoiding toxicity to nearby healthy cells.

This targeted approach employs nanoparticles decorated with agents that specifically bind PSMA (Prostate Specific Membrane Antigen), a protein abundantly expressed on the surface of prostate cancer cells, particularly in advanced, treatment-resistant, metastatic disease. The payloads of these nanoparticles are 1) imaging reporters, and 2) therapeutics, mainly prodrugs that get converted to active drugs inside the tumor.

The team at Johns Hopkins Medicine found that this PSMA-targeted theranostic nanoplex could find and kill malignant cancer cells in animal models of prostate cancer, while sparing healthy cells. The nanoplex was well-tolerated and did not induce liver or kidney toxicity or a significant immune response.

This study provides proof-of-principle that theranostics, ideally, can provide patients with targeted and personalized treatment options while minimizing the damage to healthy cells. With recent advances in cancer genome profiling, it is possible to obtain “fingerprints” of tumors. This detailed information on a patient’s cancer will allow the theranostic nanoplex platform to be easily modified and applied to different cancers for theranostic imaging, as a single agent or in combination with other treatment modalities.

“Our theranostic imaging approach shows how the best methods of detection and treatment can be combined to form highly specialized, more potent and safer forms of chemotherapy,” shared Dr. Pomper. “With theranostic imaging, we can attack multiple tumor targets, making it harder for the tumor to evade drug treatment.”

According to the investigational team, this study is “believed to be the first to show that chemotherapies can be precisely controlled at the molecular level to maximize their effectiveness against tumors, while also minimizing side effects.” This research was conducted in animal models of prostate cancer and findings were published in the journal American Chemical Society Nano.

Read more from Johns Hopkins Medicine.

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