Scientists to investigate 'magic bullet' cancer therapy

Scientists at the University of Sheffield will investigate a new 'magic-bullet' cancer therapy that exploits tumour cells’ greed for fat, following an award from Yorkshire Cancer Research.

A cancer research scientistHigher rates of the most deadly cancers, such as colorectal and breast cancer, have been linked to obesity or high fat diets because cancer cells use fat to grow larger and more dangerous. They are able to uptake fat by producing large amounts of structures on their surfaces called receptors, which allow chemicals to bind with the cell.

Dr Irene Canton, from the University of Sheffield's Department of Biomedical Science, plans to produce smart nanoparticles that are taken up by two of the main receptors, known as SR-B1 and CD36. These nanoparticles could then be used to carry therapies directly to the cancer cells, without affecting healthy cells.

Dr Canton said: “Much hope in cancer research is coming from molecular biology and biotechnology. However, the use of biomolecular-based therapeutics is heavily restricted by the lack of a ‘magic-bullet’ therapy that overcomes problems such as solubility, drug stability and a lack of specificity.

“We have very strong reasons to believe that nanotechnology can help here. To prove this, we will screen many different formulations with slight changes in the surface of the nanoparticles. This will provide vital information as to whether they are good enough to link with the SR-B1 and CD36 receptors.

“These nanoparticles could be the necessary 'magic-bullets' to save many lives affected by the worst types of cancers. Our proposal takes a step closer to patient-tailored strategies, allowing the delivery of therapeutic bio-molecules and restricting side effects of existing drugs.”

Additional information

The University of Sheffield

With nearly 25,000 students from 125 countries, the University of Sheffield is one of the UK´s leading and largest universities. A member of the Russell Group, it has a reputation for world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

The University of Sheffield has been named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards for its exceptional performance in research, teaching, access and business performance. In addition, the University has won four Queen´s Anniversary Prizes (1998, 2000, 2002, 2007). These prestigious awards recognise outstanding contributions by universities and colleges to the United Kingdom´s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life. Sheffield also boasts five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and many of its alumni have gone on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence around the world.

The University´s research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls Royce, Unilever, Boots, AstraZeneca, GSK, ICI, Slazenger, and many more household names, as well as UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

The University has well-established partnerships with a number of universities and major corporations, both in the UK and abroad. Its partnership with Leeds and York Universities in the White Rose Consortium has a combined research power greater than that of either Oxford or Cambridge.

Yorkshire Cancer Research

Harrogate-based Yorkshire Cancer Research is the UK’s largest regional medical research charity (registered charity no. 516898)

Every penny raised is spent in Yorkshire, funding £6m of research, treatment and diagnosis projects throughout the region each year.

The 200 plus scientists and clinicians funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research are among world leaders in the fight against cancer.

Over the next 10 years, Yorkshire Cancer Research is committed to slashing current statistics that show 263 people die every week from cancer in Yorkshire alone. Currently Yorkshire has one of the worst cancer survival rates in the UK, partly due to a lack of funding by the government and national charities to researchers and clinicians throughout the region.

By funding research in Yorkshire, we are ensuring that people with cancer who live in the region have access to groundbreaking treatments, while also contributing to the global fight against the disease.

Yorkshire Cancer Research is one of the most cost efficient cancer charities in the UK.


For further information please contact:

Amy Stone
Media Relations Officer
The University of Sheffield
0114 222 1046