health

Pioneering research to combat chemo side effects

Team of professors and students developing nano-chemotherapy capsules that only target cancerous cells

14:32 March 13, 2015
AUS research lab Dr ghalib
Dr Ghaleb
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Sharjah: To combat the harsh side effects of cancer, a team of professors and students from the American University of Sharjah (AUS) are developing nano-chemotherapy capsules that will target cancerous cells.

Dr Galeb Husseini, professor of chemical engineering at AUS, who established the “Ultrasound in Cancer Research Group”, said the treatment will help fight chemotherapy side effects such as hair loss, leukopenia and gastrointestinal problems (including nausea) to name a few.

The professor explained that the side effects of chemotherapy are primarily caused by the non-specific nature of the treatment as the drug can kill normal and cancerous cells alike.

“For this reason we are designing nano-cells, that are smaller than human cells, and putting chemo in them. The idea is to inject them to the IV, they will enter the veins and so spread everywhere in the body, but the chemo will remain in the capsules. Using ultrasound in certain areas will release the chemo content from the capsules directly to the cancerous cells.”

He said by using this method, only the cancerous cells will be killed and not the normal, healthy cells.

Dr Husseini and the team of researchers, working at the recently established drug delivery laboratory at AUS believe using the nano-cells will minimise the side affects of chemotherapy.

He said this treatment can work on different types of cancers such as prostate cancer and breast cancer to name a few, but it cannot be used on leukaemia, lung cancer and brain cancer.

“It cant be used on leukaemia because the cancerous cells would be everywhere and cannot be targeted it also cant be used on brain cancer because ultrasound cannot penetrate the human skull.”

Dr Husseini said to be effective, many of these capsules-which he said look like tiny balls — have to be inserted in the areas where the cancer has spread.

“We are currently in the in vitro stage where we are testing the capsules through tubes. We have seen promising results from one of the chemicals. I can’t reveal which chemical yet because we are now still on the patent.”

The professor and his team, who started the research three years ago, are currently seeking funds to continue their research.

“We need major funding. The funding will go towards testing the carriers against cancer cells in test tubes.”

The team working on the research comprises of seven AUS professors from chemical engineering, electrical engineering, computer engineering, mechanical engineering, biology and chemistry fields. It also includes seven masters students, two visiting scholars from Portugal and several undergraduate students.