DETROIT — A Wayne State University research team in the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences has developed a novel approach to the design of nanocarriers for treatment of metastatic cancer and inflammatory diseases.

Published in the prestigious international chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie, the study “Dual-function CXCR4 Antagonist Polyplexes to Deliver Gene Therapy and Inhibit Cancer Cell Invasion” introduces a new type of nanocarriers that have unique dual functionality.

“The nanocarriers not only limit metastasis and inflammation, but also deliver additional therapeutic agents with anticancer or anti-inflammatory activity,” said associate professor David Oupicky, who heads the research team in the college’s department of pharmaceutical sciences.

In describing the design, Oupicky said, “Published reports suggest that certain drugs, called CXCR4 antagonists, can limit tumor growth and metastasis in various cancers. This makes the CXCR4 receptor a suitable target for the development of combination nanocarriers that control cancer metastasis and can deliver a second knock-out punch.”

To better treat metastatic cancer, Oupicky and his team propose to use the novel CXCR4 inhibiting nanocarriers, which show promise limiting cancer cell invasion, to deliver small interfering RNA (siRNA) molecules to the interior of the targeted cancer cells.

“The siRNA molecules can disable specific genes that cancer needs for its growth,” said Jing Li, a senior member of Oupicky’s laboratory and the lead author of the research article. “This simultaneous therapeutic effect and siRNA delivery combined in a single nanocarrier will enhance the anticancer and anti-metastatic effect in different types of cancer.”

The proposed combination nanocarriers are intended ultimately to benefit patients with metastatic cancer as well as patients with early stages of the disease.

“We anticipate that the interim outcomes of our study will confirm activity and safety of the nanocarriers in a preclinical model of metastatic breast cancer,” Oupicky said. “We anticipate several years of additional development and preclinical evaluation before achieving first patient-related outcomes.”

The study is supported in part by a research enhancement grant from WSU’s Office of the Vice President for Research and a grant from the National Institutes of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering of the National Institutes of Health (R21-EB014570). This technology is protected by the WSU Tech ID: 11-1068. For additional information, please visit the WSU Innovation Catalogue at


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