Cardiovascular disease and cancer, the two leading global causes of death, are seemingly distinct but share commonalities in their origins and development. Researchers have discovered that engineered nanoparticles targeting specific immune cells could potentially treat both diseases.
Cardiovascular disease often results from inflammation and the accumulation of fat, cholesterol, and lipids in blood vessel walls, forming plaques that can lead to heart attacks. Cancer, on the other hand, primarily arises from uncontrollable cell division due to genetic mutations.
Both diseases share risk factors such as obesity, smoking, stress, and poor diet, which can be linked to chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation contributes to atherosclerosis (a form of cardiovascular disease) by damaging blood vessel cells. It supports cancer by increasing mutations, promoting the growth of blood vessels that nourish tumours, and suppressing the immune response.
Treatments that target immune cells called macrophages in tumours have shown promise in cancer therapy and can also shrink atherosclerotic plaques. Antiglycolytic therapies, which prevent glucose breakdown, can potentially normalize tumours and atherosclerotic blood vessels.
Sodium-glucose cotransporter-2 inhibitors, typically used to treat diabetes, have demonstrated benefits in protecting against cardiovascular disease and treating cancer. Clinical trials indicate a strong connection between inflammation, metabolism, and cardiovascular disease, paving the way for new treatment opportunities.
Nanotubes, minuscule carbon particles, can enter specific immune cells, travel through the bloodstream, and infiltrate tumours. Researchers are exploring whether these nanotubes can also serve as delivery vehicles for atherosclerotic plaques. Loaded with therapies that stimulate immune cells to reduce plaque size, nanotubes offer precision drug delivery while minimizing side effects. Additionally, they can enhance the diagnosis of cardiovascular disease by highlighting plaques.
Nanoparticles can also enter tumours by passing through leaky blood vessels, a phenomenon known as the enhanced permeation and retention effect. Researchers are applying this effect to improve drug delivery for cardiovascular disease involving leaky blood vessels.
The similarities between cancer and cardiovascular disease suggest the potential for shared drug candidates and simultaneous treatment for patients with both conditions. While cancer nanodrugs have progressed, cardiovascular nanodrug development lags, offering opportunities to enhance drug efficacy and reduce side effects in cardiovascular therapy.