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Cancer battling nanoparticle method devised

Researchers from the Houston Methodist Research Institute have tackled several cancers by creating a drug that generates nanoparticles inside the lung metastases. This significant development in nanomedicine opens up the possibility of fighting ‘incurable cancers’ of the lung and liver.

One problem with cancer drugs is that they are often absorbed into healthy tissue as well as the target tumor, causing side effects. A further downside is that less of the active substance reaches patients. Scientists continue to strive for more focused “smart medications.”

A new nanotechnology based treatment intends to enable sequential passage through the various biological barriers in order to transport the killing agent into the heart of the cancer. Here, by being carried within a nano-shell, the drug would only activate once it reaches the cancer site.

To achieve this, an injectable nanoparticle generator is required and developing this has taken 20 years. This complex process allows a cancer drug (called doxorubicin) to hit the required spot with better accuracy than current methods can deliver.

The experimental drug was tested on mice. In a controlled study, it was found that 50 percent of the mice treated with the drug had no trace of metastatic disease eight months after the treatment had been given. The researchers have extrapolated this to say this would have given a human an additional 24 years (or more of life.) This, of course, is based on being within the 50 percent where success was shown and putting aside the complexity of extrapolating data.

Talking with Controlled Environments magazine, lead investigator Dr. Mauro Ferrari commented: “We invented a method that actually makes the nanoparticles inside the cancer and releases the drug particles at the site of the cellular nucleus. With this injectable nanoparticle generator, we were able to do what standard chemotherapy drugs, vaccines, radiation, and other nanoparticles have all failed to do.”

The next phase is to show this works successfully with people, through the clinical trial route.

The findings are published in the journal Nature Biotechnology. The research is titled “An injectable nanoparticle generator enhances delivery of cancer therapeutics.”

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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