Mushroom-Derived Nanoparticles Halt Liver Cancer Spread

Jenn Hoskins
5th April, 2024

Mushroom-Derived Nanoparticles Halt Liver Cancer Spread

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Researchers developed a new, natural nanoparticle from a medicinal mushroom to target liver cancer
  • These particles can be taken orally and have shown to slow down cancer cell growth and spread
  • The particles also potentially enhance the immune system's ability to fight tumors
Liver cancer, particularly hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), is a formidable health challenge, notorious for its high mortality and limited treatment options. While recent advancements have improved patient management and survival, especially in early stages[2], the prognosis for advanced HCC remains grim[3]. Nanotechnology has emerged as a beacon of hope in the fight against cancer, promising to deliver more effective treatments with fewer side effects. However, the path from laboratory to clinic is fraught with obstacles such as environmental concerns, production scalability, and cost. In a significant leap forward, researchers at Southwest University have developed a novel approach using natural exosome-like nanoparticles (ELNs) derived from the medicinal mushroom Phellinus linteus[1]. These particles, named P-ELNs, are microscopic vehicles that can deliver drugs directly to tumor cells. With an average size of 154.1 nanometers and a negative charge, P-ELNs are small and stable enough to navigate the complex environment of the human body. Their stability is particularly noteworthy in the gastrointestinal tract, suggesting their suitability for oral administration—a less invasive and more patient-friendly route. The study found that P-ELNs contain a variety of functional components, including lipids and active small molecules, which are likely responsible for their therapeutic effects. When tested in liver tumor cells in a laboratory setting, P-ELNs were readily taken up by the cells and demonstrated a capacity to inhibit cell growth, movement, and invasiveness. These are key characteristics of cancer cells that contribute to tumor progression and metastasis. Building on previous research[4], which highlighted the role of the tumor microenvironment and the extracellular matrix in cancer progression, P-ELNs seem to offer a targeted approach to disrupt these pathological processes. The earlier study found that a component of the extracellular matrix, hyaluronan, and its binding protein HABP1, were implicated in tumor growth and could be targeted to reduce malignancy. The P-ELNs may similarly affect the tumor microenvironment, though the exact mechanisms remain to be fully elucidated. Moreover, the study's animal model experiments revealed that P-ELNs could significantly slow down the progression of metastatic liver cancer. The nanoparticles appeared to work by increasing reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels, which can induce cell death in cancer cells, and by rebalancing the gut microbiome, which is increasingly recognized as an important factor in health and disease, including cancer. The therapeutic effects of P-ELNs align with the current understanding of HCC treatment, where sorafenib—a drug that inhibits cell proliferation and angiogenesis—is the standard care for advanced HCC[3]. However, resistance to such treatments is a major barrier, and the search for novel strategies is critical. In this context, the P-ELNs may offer a new avenue for overcoming resistance and enhancing treatment efficacy. In addition to their potential in treating liver cancer, P-ELNs could potentially influence the immune system. A previous study[5] showed that plant-derived extracellular vesicles could alter macrophage polarization, shifting them from a tumor-supportive to a tumor-fighting state. While P-ELNs are derived from fungi rather than plants, they may have a similar immunomodulatory effect, adding another layer to their anticancer properties. The findings from Southwest University's research suggest that P-ELNs could be a powerful and versatile tool in the fight against liver cancer, offering a new oral therapeutic option that is both natural and effective. While further research is necessary to fully understand their mechanisms and to move towards clinical trials, the promise of P-ELNs is a testament to the innovative approaches that are reshaping the landscape of cancer treatment.



Main Study

1) Oral exosome-like nanovesicles from Phellinus linteus suppress metastatic hepatocellular carcinoma by reactive oxygen species generation and microbiota rebalancing.

Published 2nd April, 2024

Related Studies

3) Are there opportunities for chemotherapy in the treatment of hepatocellular cancer?

4) A silk fibroin based hepatocarcinoma model and the assessment of the drug response in hyaluronan-binding protein 1 overexpressed HepG2 cells.

5) Ginseng-derived nanoparticles alter macrophage polarization to inhibit melanoma growth.

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