Researchers are developing nanotech "smart packages" to target and destroy cancer cells more efficiently and reduce side effects. The smart packages, delivered with chemotherapy drugs, contain folate molecules that seek out and bind to cancer cells, which have lower pH levels than healthy cells. The packages then release anti-cancer drugs to kill the targeted cells without harming healthy cells in the vicinity.
A modular p-phosphonated calixarene vesicle (PCV) loaded with paclitaxel (PTX) and conjugated with folic acid as a cancer targeting ligand has been prepared using a thin film-sonication method. It has a pH-responsive capacity to trigger the release of the encapsulated PTX payload under mildly acidic conditions. PTX-loaded PCV conjugated with alkyne-modified PEG-folic acid ligands prepared via click ligation (fP-PCVPTX) has enhanced potency against folate receptor (FR)-positive SKOV-3 ovarian tumour cells over FR-negative A549 lung tumour cells. Moreover, fP-PCVPTX is also four times more potent than the non-targeting PCVPTX platform towards SKOV-3 cells. Overall, as a delivery platform the PCVs have the potential to enhance efficacy of anticancer drugs by targeting a chemotherapeutic payload specifically to tumours and triggering the release of the encapsulated drug in the vicinity of cancer cells.