Updated on 14 October 2014
IBN research team (from R-L): Dr Susi Tan, Dr Motoichi Kurisawa, Prof Jackie Y. Ying, Dr Shujun Gao, Dr Joo Eun Chung and Ms Nunnarpas Yongvongsoontorn
Singapore: A group of researchers from Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) is using green tea ingredients to develop a drug delivery system to kill cancer cells more efficiently.
A key ingredient in green tea, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), is an antioxidant which is known to have therapeutic applications in the treatment of many disorders including cancer.
"The numerous health benefits of green tea have inspired us to utilize it in drug delivery systems. This is the first time that green tea has been used as a material to encapsulate and deliver drugs to cancer cells. Our green tea nanocarrier not only delivered protein drugs more effectively to the cancer cells, the combination of carrier and drug also dramatically reduced tumor growth compared with the drug alone. This is an exciting breakthrough in nanomedicine," said Professor Jackie Y Ying, executive director, IBN.
A key challenge in chemotherapy is ensuring that the drugs are delivered only to the tumor in order to avoid harming the surrounding healthy tissues and organs. To address this, researchers have focused their efforts on developing more effective drug carriers. When injected into the body, these carriers act like homing missiles, traveling through the body to zoom in on the target cells where they will release the cancer-destroying drugs.
A major stumbling block in designing more effective carriers for drugs has been the drug-to-carrier ratio. Specifically, the capacity of a particular carrier limits the amount of drug that it can deliver. Effective therapy would typically require the administration of substantial amounts of drug-encapsulating vessels into the body. Unfortunately, existing carriers are made of materials that have no therapeutic effect, and they may even cause side effects if used in large quantities.