Published on 29 Sep 2020

Research on ‘Trojan horse’ approach to kill cancer cells without using drugs – Assistant Professor Dalton Tay Chor Yong

We are delighted to share the research achievement of Assistant Professor Dalton Tay Chor Yong and his team, on a new method to kill cancer cells without using drugs, which has been featured in various media including CNA and Capitol 958FM. The media reports and video footages are appended at the bottom of the page.

The researchers created their 'Trojan horse' nanoparticle by coating it with a specific amino acid – L-phenylalanine – that cancer cells rely on, along with other similar amino acids, to survive and grow. L-phenylalanine is known as an 'essential' amino acid as it cannot be made by the body and must be absorbed from food, typically from meat and dairy products. They took a silica nanoparticle designated as 'Generally Recognized As Safe' by the US Food and Drug Administration and coated it with L-phenylalanine. The anti-cancer therapeutic nanoparticle is ultrasmall, with a diameter of 30 nm, or approximately 30,000 times smaller than a strand of human hair, and is named "Nanoscopic phenylalanine Porous Amino Acid Mimic", or Nano-pPAAM. The team discovered that cancer cells in mice are killed and tumour growth reduced, using the new approach that turns a nanoparticle into a 'Trojan horse'.

Assistant Professor Dalton Tay,lead author of the study, said: "Against conventional wisdom, our approach involved using the nanomaterial as a drug instead of a drug-carrier. Here, the cancer-selective and killing properties of Nano-pPAAM are intrinsic and do not need to be 'activated' by any external stimuli. The amino acid L-phenylalanine acts as a 'trojan horse' – a cloak to mask the nanotherapeutic on the inside. By removing the drug component, we have effectively simplified the nanomedicine formulation and may overcome the numerous technological hurdles that are hindering the bench-to-bedside translation of drug-based nanomedicine."

A research article from the work is also published in Small, with the title “Potent‐By‐Design: Amino Acids Mimicking Porous Nanotherapeutics with Intrinsic Anticancer Targeting Properties”. The article can be found via this link:

Research on ‘Trojan horse’ approach to kill cancer cells without using drugs – Assistant Professor Dalton Tay Chor Yong

Our heartiest congratulations to Prof Tay and his team on their excellent achievement!

Media Coverage:
CNA (10pm), 23 Sep
TODAY, 23 Sep
Channel 8 news, 23 Sep
Capital 95.8FM
Lianhe Zaobao, page 9 and  online
Lianhe Wanbao, 23 Sep, page 6
Shin Min Daily News, 23 Sep, page 4
Bioengineer (UK), 23 Sep
Environmental News Network (US)
Calidad Sectur (MX)
Phys Org (US)
7th Space (NL)
Science Codex (US)
Bright Surf (UK)
Nanowerk (US)
Mirage News (AU)
China Times (TW), 23 Sep
MSN News (TW) (TW)
CTI TV (TW), 23 Sep
eNanyang (MY)