Liposomal Drug Delivery as a Platform for Cancer Therapeutics

Student: Rebecca Shute, 2015-2016

Sponsor: Prof. Basar Bilgicer, Engineering, Notre Dame, IN

Chemotherapeutic drugs have shifted the paradigm of cancer therapy from palliative care to aggressive treatment, significantly decreasing morbidity. These treatments are effective but lead to systemic cytotoxicity in the body. Low permeability into the cell necessitates high doses of anticancer drugs that accumulate and attack quickly dividing cells close to the vasculature, leading to health issues such as alopecia, nausea, and vomiting. Chemotherapy can significantly decrease quality of life in cancer patients, and many elect to terminate treatment. Dr. Bilgicer’s laboratory addresses the weaknesses in current chemotherapy treatment through a drug delivery platform that is constructed from liposomes, which are self-assembling spherical particles prepared from a phospholipid bilayer. These biocompatible particles, capable of loading both polar and nonpolar drugs, easily enter cells and consequently lower the minimum effective dose of chemotherapy required for efficacy. The small size of liposomes can fit through the gaps of leaky tumor vasculature and target cancerous tumor cells, and remain in circulation longer by avoiding clearance by the kidneys. Liposomal drug delivery has been developed successfully in multiple myeloma and breast cancer models, and holds the potential to significantly improve the treatment and quality of life of a patient suffering from cancer.