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PolyU develops biomimetic nanosheet for cancer therapy and imaging

31 May 2021

Research Team: (from left) Dr Summy LO Wai-sum, Prof. Wing-tak WONG, Dr Karen GU Yanjuan and PhD student FANG Xueyang

New cancer treatments emerge since conventional cancer treatments like surgical therapy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy have different limitations and side effects. The biology and chemical experts of ABCT have been dedicated to new drug development and breakthroughs in oncology research and cancer treatments to cure the disease.

An ABCT research team led by Prof. Wing-tak WONG, Chair Professor of Chemical Technology (also the Deputy President and Provost of PolyU), has developed a novel type of biomimetic nanosheet with a multi-modal imaging function, which can track tumour development and treatment processes in real-time.

By harnessing two emerging cancer therapies, namely immunotherapy and photothermal therapy, the biomimetic nanosheet enables effective and precise treatment of tumours, which will significantly improve the therapeutic outcome of tumours, reduce side effects and increase patients' survival rates. The research findings have been published in the prestigious international journal Advanced Science.

Dr Summy LO Wai-sum said, "The biomimetic nanosheets developed by our team allow us to combine immunotherapy and photothermal therapy for synergistic therapy. By applying the synergistic therapy in an experiment for colorectal tumour treatment, we found that it is more effective than single therapy and has fewer side effects on the human body."

On the other hand, the PolyU-developed biomimetic nanosheets can also achieve the goals of theranostics. By harnessing magnetic, optical and thermal properties, the nanomaterials enable three imaging modalities, namely magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), photoacoustic imaging (PAI) and photothermal imaging (PTI), for real-time tracing and tracking of the tumour sites and the nanosheets, in order to achieve multimodal diagnosis in cancer treatment.

The team carried out experiments on mice bearing subcutaneous colorectal tumours to investigate the application in living animals. The study showed that the tumour volume had significantly reduced after 25 days of synergistic therapy, whereas the survival rate of the mice was three times higher than that of the control groups. The major organs of the mice, including the heart, liver, spleen, lung and kidney, showed no obvious inflammation and damage, demonstrating high biosafety and low toxicity. The research team also utilised the MRI and photoacoustic imaging capabilities of the biomimetic nanosheet to observe the tumour for 24 hours, visualising the targeting and accumulation of the nano-theranostic material at the tumour site.

The experiment proved that PolyU-developed biomimetic nanosheets, with multi-modal imaging capability, can offer accurate and comprehensive detection and evaluation of tumour development, ultimately achieving theranostics alongside synergistic therapeutic effects. It provides a practical design blueprint for the development of a new generation of cancer theranostics agents which have high targeting ability, efficacy and safety.

Dr. Lo said the team will further expand the application of this nanomaterial to other cancer therapies and study the metabolism of the nanosheet in the living body, thus benefiting more cancer patients.

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