Research Highlight

New technique to tame multidrug-resistant breast cancer

doi:10.1038/nindia.2018.97 Published online 29 July 2018

A nanocomposite — made using a plant pigment, multiwalled carbon nanotube and a derivative of anticancer drug tamoxifen — can stop the growth of multidrug-resistant breast cancer cells, shows a new study.

This technique, devised to enhance the efficacy of the drug by increasing its concentrations inside the cancer cells, offers a new way to treat drug-defying breast cancer.

In recent years, cancers affecting breast, ovaries and the gastrointestinal tract have developed resistance to multiple anticancer drugs. Such resistance allows the cancers to attack multiple organs, increasing death tolls at an alarming rate.

To find a way to treat multidrug-resistant cancers, scientists from the Central University of Rajasthan in Rajasthan and the Panjab University in Chandigarh, India, synthesised a nanocomposite using the plant pigment quercetin, a multiwalled carbon nanotube and a derivative of tamoxifen. They then tested this nanocomposite’s efficiency in releasing the drug derivative and quercetin inside the breast cancer cells.

The nanocomposite released the drug derivative and quercetin slowly in 48 hours and considerably increased the toxic effects on the cancer cells.

The quercetin crippled the activity of a membrane protein that is known to pump anticancer drugs out of the cancer cells. It also blocked a specific enzyme that breaks down drugs, facilitating their removal from the body. The quercetin thus increased the toxicity and bioavailability of the drug derivative, checking the proliferation and migration of the cancer cells.   

Being non-toxic to red blood cells, the nanocomposite is biocompatible, the researchers say.


1. Kumar, M. et al. N-desmethyl tamoxifen and quercetin-loaded multiwalled CNTs: a synergistic approach to overcome MDR in cancer cells. Mater. Sci. Eng. C. 89, 274-282 (2018)