Nanopharmacology consists in the application of nanotechnology to discover or develop novel methods to deliver drugs. Thus, a nanodrug can be seen as a nanovector designed to deliver a drug to a specific area or tissue of interest. And the main reason why this is a promising emergent field of research is due to the associated toxicities commonly found in most therapeutic treatments, which eventually lead to less efficient regimes or which block the access of patients to different treatments.

Within these lines, a collaboration between the CIBER-Bioengineering, Biomaterials and Nanomedicine, the University of Barcelona, and the Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute have just published in the Journal of Hematology and Oncology a study with a novel nanodrug that they have developed that is specifically targeted against leukemic cells and which is showing promising results. These nanovector delivers a potent anti-neoplastic toxin called auristatin, which under normal conditions could not be administered to patients due to its elevated associated toxicity. However, in this case, these researchers have made a nanovector specifically directed towards the CXCR4 receptor, which is usually upregulated in leukemic cells. In this way, the auristatin toxin is only delivered within the leukemic cell that expresses the receptor avoiding damage to healthy non-cancerous cells.

Importantly, this receptor is commonly overexpressed in patients with poor prognosis or non-responding tumors giving some hope for these cases. It is worth mentioning that the CXCR4 receptor is also found overexpressed in 20 other cancer types, which could benefit as well from this approach thus, the spectrum of patients that can benefit from this novel treatment is quite impressive.