Research Highlight

Nanotherapy for oral cancer

doi:10.1038/nindia.2016.85 Published online 30 June 2016

Researchers have enhanced the therapeutic efficacy of the anticancer drug sorafenib by encapsulating it with calcium carbonate nanoparticles and polyelectrolytes1. This nanoparticle-coated drug is potentially more effective than the free drug in stopping the growth of oral cancer cells.

Studies have shown that sorafenib can inhibit the proliferation of breast, colon, lung and liver cancer cells, even for those that are drug resistant. However, the effects of sorafenib on oral cancer cells are not well understood.

To explore sorafenib’s potential against oral cancer, the researchers trapped sorafenib in calcium carbonate nanoparticles and then coated them with two bilayers of polyelectrolytes — dextran sulfate and polyarginine.

The nanoparticles initially released the drug rapidly and then slowly; after 48 hours, they had released 68% of the loaded drug.

When nanoparticles coated with fluorescent dye were incubated with oral cancer cells, the scientists observed red fluorescence inside the cancer cells, suggesting that drug-loaded nanoparticles easily permeated the cancer cells.

Sophisticated imaging techniques revealed that the nanoparticles stifled the growth of the cancer cells by destroying their cell membrane and nuclei.

“The sorafenib nanoparticles stopped the migration of cancer cells, thereby preventing them from becoming metastatic, suggesting that these nanoparticles could be used against deadly oral cancer,” says Radhika Poojari, the lead author of the study.


1. Poojari, R. et al. Intracellular interactions of electrostatically mediated layer-by-layer assembled polyelectrolytes based sorafenib nanoparticles in oral cancer cells. Colloids and Surfaces B: Interfaces 143, 131–138 (2016)