Greek researcher hits cancer with heat-triggered ‘grenades’
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Greek researcher hits cancer with heat-triggered ‘grenades’

Scientists of the Nanomedicine Lab in Manchester led by the Greek researcher, Kostas Kostarelos, have designed microscopic “grenades” that can explode their cancer-killing payload in tumours.

The team presented its findings at the National Cancer Research Institute conference. They plan to use liposomes – tiny bubbles of fat which carry materials round the body – to release toxic drugs when their temperature is raised.

The “grenades” are intended to avoid side-effects by ensuring the drugs target only the tumour. Experts said such technology, which has been effective in animal experiments, was the “holy grail of nanomedicine”.

Cancer scientists are trying to harness the transporting abilities of these fatty spheres by getting them to carry toxic drugs to tumours.

“The difficulty is, how do you release them when they reach their target?” Prof Kostas Kostarelos, from the University of Manchester, told the BBC News website.

The Nanomedicine Lab in Manchester has designed liposomes that are water-tight at normal body temperature. But when the temperature increases to 42C they become leaky.

“The challenge for us is to try to develop liposomes in such a way that they will be very stable at 37C and not leak any cancer drug molecules and then abruptly release them at 42C,” Prof Kostarelos added.

He suggests heat pads could be used to warm tumours on the body surface such as skin, head or neck cancers.

In early tests on mice with melanoma there was “greater uptake” of drugs in tumours using the thermal grenades. And that resulted in a “moderate improvement” in survival rates.

Prof Kostarelos said similar techniques were being trialled in patients and this “is not a fantasy.”

Who is Kostas Kostarelos

Kostas obtained his Diploma in Chemical Engineering and PhD from the Department of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London, studying the steric stabilization of liposomes using block copolymer molecules. He carried out his postdoctoral training in various medical institutions in the United States and has worked closely with Professors Th.F. Tadros (ICI plc, UK), P.F. Luckham (Imperial College London), D. Papahadjopoulos (UCSF, USA), G. Sgouros (Memorial Sloan-Kettering, NY, USA) and R.G. Crystal (Weill Medical College of Cornell University, NY, USA).

He was Assistant Professor of Genetic Medicine & Chemical Engineering in Medicine at Cornell University Weill Medical College when he relocated to the UK as the Deputy Director of Imperial College Genetic Therapies Centre in 2002. In 2003 Professor Kostarelos joined the Centre for Drug Delivery Research at the UCL School of Pharmacy as the Deputy Head of the Centre. He was promoted to the Personal Chair of Nanomedicine and Head of the Centre in 2007. The entire Nanomedicine Lab was embedded within the Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences and the National Graphene Institute at the University of Manchester in 2013. Prof. Kostarelos is currently Professor of Nanomedicine at the University of Manchester and Visiting Professor at UCL Faculty of Life Sciences.

He has been invited Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, Fellow of the Institute of Nanotechnology and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts all in the United Kingdom. In 2010 he was awarded the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Professorial Fellowship with the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Tsukuba, Japan. He is the Founding and Senior Editor of the journal Nanomedicine and sits on the Editorial Board of Archives in Toxicology, 2D Materials, Nanoscale Horizons, Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE), Applied Materials Today, The Journal of Liposome ResearchThe International Journal of Nanomedicine and Frontiers in Neuroengineering.