Researchers from Cardiff University have developed a non-toxic nanotube which is soft, flexible and biocompatible, which could be used to deliver anti-cancer drugs precisely and safely.

The report ‘Soft and flexible poly(ethylene glycol) nanotubes for local drug delivery’, published in the journal Nanoscale, describes the unique and safe attributes of the tube.

The nanotube is made from a non-toxic polymer called poly(ethylene glycol) and can be inserted into the body without natural defences rejecting it. The tube could be inserted into specific parts of the body to deliver anti-cancer drugs to individual body parts. This would remove many of the dangerous side-effects of these drugs caused by injections of the drugs into the bloodstream, where they can access and damage both cancer cells and perfectly healthy cells.

“With the development of a brand new type of nanotube, we are in unchartered territory,” said Cardiff University lecturer Dr Ben Newland.

“We are in the early stages of this research, but it’s exciting to think about the potential improvements in the way that drugs are delivered.”

The researchers used a drug called Doxorubicin to test the effectiveness of the nanotube. They administered the drug through the nanotube and compared to the same dose of the same drug being administered through injection. The results indicated a reduction in the rate of metastasis—the spreading of cancer to other parts of the body—and the rate of tumour growth through the nanotube delivery.

The project was completed through a collaboration between Cardiff University’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, the University of Strathclyde and the Leibniz Institute of Polymer Research in Dresden. It was funded by the Wellcome Trust.