Nanomedicines Based On Green Tea Used To Target Cancers

Singapore – Researchers from A*STAR’s Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) have successfully developed an innovative nanocarrier derived from green tea catechins, which can deliver anti-cancer drugs in a targeted and effective fashion. The research team, led by IBN Team Leader and Principal Research Scientist Dr Motoichi Kurisawa, created a synergistic formulation of the nanocarrier with Sunitinib (SU), an anti-cancer drug targeting kidney cancer. This unique formulation greatly enhanced the efficacy of the anti-cancer drug in experimental models to prevent tumours from growing and multiplying, while greatly decreasing the toxicity usually associated with normal regimens of the drug.

A typical drawback of nanocarriers for cancer therapy is their low drug-loading capacities, meaning an increased dosage or frequency of administration is required in order to achieve the desired treatment effects. However, this risks toxicity caused by the nanocarrier and related undesired side effects. In contrast, elevating the drug-loading runs the risk of causing nanocarrier instability, which in turn leads to low efficacy and off-target toxicity. Therefore, the research team employed the strategy of using nanocarriers with intrinsic therapeutic effects, synergistically augmenting the anti-cancer drug’s efficacy and decreasing emphasis on the drug-to-carrier ratio.

The anti-cancer benefits of consuming green tea are controversial due to its low bioavailability. A known antioxidant found in green tea, called epigallocatechin-3-O-gallate (EGCG), is required in large doses in order to prevent cancer as it passes through the body rapidly. IBN researchers led by Dr Kurisawa created self-assembling nanocarriers from EGCG back in 2014, and have since applied the same approach to making the new synergistic formulation for superior tumour-killing performance and stability with minimal unwanted side effects.

“Our work has the potential to greatly alleviate the toxicity associated with normal regimens of the anti-cancer drug,” said Dr Kurisawa. “By using the novel nanocarrier, we can achieve very strong tumour growth inhibition using lower dosages of the anti-cancer drug compared to conventional treatments,” he added.

Dr Ichiro Hirao, Covering Executive Director of A*STAR’s IBN, said: “We are confident that this breakthrough will address many of the difficulties associated with traditional drug delivery systems, and lead to improved quality of life and prolonged survival rates for cancer patients.”

The research results were published in the journal ACS Nano on 01 July 2019.


N. Yongvongsoontorn, J. E. Chung, S. J. Gao, K. H. Bae, M. H. Tan, J. Y. Ying, M. Kurisawa, “Carrier-Enhanced Anticancer Efficacy of Sunitinib-Loaded Green Tea-Based Micellar Nanocomplex beyond Tumor-Targeted Delivery”, ACS Nano (2019) See article.

About the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology

The Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) is the world’s first bioengineering and nanotechnology research institute. Established in 2003, IBN’s mission is to conduct multidisciplinary research across science, engineering, and medicine for breakthroughs to improve healthcare and quality of life. IBN’s research activities are focused on Nanomedicine and Biomaterials, Synthetic Xenobiology and Biosystems, Tissue and Organoid Models, and Green and Safe Biomaterials. The Institute has published over 1,320 papers in leading scientific journals, filed over 660 active patents and patent applications on its inventions, and established 12 spin-off companies. For more information on IBN, please visit

About the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) is Singapore's lead public sector agency that spearheads economic oriented research to advance scientific discovery and develop innovative technology. Through open innovation, we collaborate with our partners in both the public and private sectors to benefit society.

As a Science and Technology Organisation, A*STAR bridges the gap between academia and industry. Our research creates economic growth and jobs for Singapore, and enhances lives by contributing to societal benefits such as improving outcomes in healthcare, urban living, and sustainability.

We play a key role in nurturing and developing a diversity of talent and leaders in our Agency and research entities, the wider research community and industry. A*STAR’s R&D activities span biomedical sciences and physical sciences and engineering, with research entities primarily located in Biopolis and Fusionopolis. For ongoing news, visit

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