VOLUME 22 #1

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Discovery holds promise in attacking brain cancer

Emily Day
Photo by Evan Krape
Emily Day

RESEARCH | A groundbreaking discovery has promising implications for treatment of a lethal type of brain tumor that is considered one of the deadliest human cancers.

Emily Day, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, is part of a team of researchers that has developed a nanotherapeutic that is capable of penetrating the blood-brain barrier, a process previously believed impossible. In addition to implications for treatment of Glioblastoma multiforme, a lethal form of malignant brain tumors, the therapy may also benefit research in Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, traumatic brain injury and various forms of cancer.

Led by researchers at Northwestern University, where Day conducted postdoctoral research, the team discovered that spherical nucleic acids (SNAs), tiny spherical gold nanoparticles densely coated with nucleic acids, have unique properties that allow them to pass through the blood-brain barrier and attack brain cancer.

When administered systemically in cell and rodent models, the SNAs delivered nucleic acids to tumors and effectively reduced tumor burden. The research team’s findings were published as a cover article in Science Translational Medicine, a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“Generally speaking, we saw about a 20 percent increase in animal survival rates with this treatment, and a five-fold reduction in tumor growth without adverse side effects,” Day says.