Research Highlight

Nanocarriers help image, kill liver cancer cells   

doi:10.1038/nindia.2020.97 Published online 18 June 2020

Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai have designed nanocarriers that can simultaneously deliver two anticancer drugs to human liver cancer cells1. These nanocarriers also encapsulate quantum dots that can track and image the cancer cells.  

The nanocarriers enhance the efficiency of the anticancer drugs by increasing their uptake by the target cancer cells. This, in turn, reduces drug-induced toxic side effects, offering a safe and effective therapy for liver cancer, the researchers say.

Widely used anticancer drugs such as docetaxel and sorafenib have been found to cause anaemia, high blood pressure, hair loss, rash, nausea and diarrhoea. The scientists, led by Radhika Poojari, devised a way to reduce these toxic effects. They loaded specific polymer nanoparticles with the anticancer drugs docetaxel and sorafenib. They then encapsulated specific quantum dots with the drug-loaded nanoparticles.

When incubated with specific human liver cancer cells, these nanoparticles accumulated on the cell membrane and inside the cells’ nuclei, suggesting they can be used as sensitive imaging probes.

The drug-loaded nanoparticles also inhibited the growth of the liver cancer cells more efficiently than the free anticancer drugs. They halted the proliferation of cancer cells by disrupting the functions of microtubules and tyrosine kinase enzymes, known to play vital roles in cell signalling, transport, migration and division.

The nanocarriers significantly increased the death of the cancer cells through apoptosis, a process of programmed cell death.


1. Poojari, R. et al. Antihepatoma activity of multifunctional polymeric nanoparticles via inhibition of microtubules and tyrosine kinases. Nanomedicine. 15 (2020) doi: 10.2217/nnm-2019-0349