Monthly Scientific Update – January 2023

Apigenin-Conjugated Gold Nanoparticles: A Potential New Treatment for Cholangiocarcinoma

Apigenin is a plant-derived compound that has been explored as a potential treatment for many medical conditions, including cancer. Lab-based studies have found promising results, but few clinical trials have explored apigenin as a potential cancer treatment due to its low solubility in water, which makes it difficult to administer as a medication.

To overcome this challenge, multiple studies have explored apigenin modifications that could improve chemical properties (e.g., solubility and stability) that are important for systemic drug delivery. One promising approach is the conjugation of apigenin to gold nanoparticles, which are highly stable and can “carry” multiple apigenin molecules through the human bloodstream for delivery into cells.

Multiple lab-based studies have instigated the anti-cancer effects of apigenin-conjugated gold nanoparticles (ACGN), and a recent study focused specifically on cholangiocarcinoma. Suggesting a potential therapeutic benefit, ACGN inhibited the proliferation of a cholangiocarcinoma cell line. The cholangiocarcinoma cell line was also more sensitive to ACGN-induced proliferation impairment than a cell line similar to normal tissue, which is important since chemotherapies must damage cancer cells while minimizing effects on healthy tissue.

Additionally, the study found that ACGN treatment induced cell death and reduced cell migration in the cholangiocarcinoma cell line. ACGN also inhibited the proliferation, migration, and tube formation of vascular endothelial cells in lab-based cultures, suggesting that it could potentially limit the formation of new tumor blood vessels in vivo. Preventing new tumor blood vessel formation is therapeutically important, as tumors require a blood supply to grow and metastasize.

ACGN is thus a promising potential treatment for cholangiocarcinoma, although the research is still in its very early stages. Moving forward, additional lab-based and potentially clinical studies should further evaluate the efficacy and safety of ACGN treatment for cholangiocarcinoma and other cancers. Developing new treatment options for cholangiocarcinoma and additional hard-to-treat cancers is urgently needed and could improve outcomes for many patients.

Kelly Butler

Kelly Butler is an NIH Postbac Research Fellow and the Founding Director of SAFE