New research into nanomedicine from the University of East Anglia (UEA), UK, means a new cancer therapy using nanoparticles to deliver combination therapy directly to cancerous cells could soon be available.
The new therapy that utilises nanoparticles has shown to make breast cancer and prostate cancer tumours more sensitive to chemotherapy, is now close to entering clinical trials. The mass-production of this nanomedicine is possible, making it a viable treatment of proven effective in human trials.
Nanomedicine is a growing research area in cancer with a focus on utilising nanoparticles to help drugs reach a tumour. The technology developed at UEA is the first of its kind to use nanoparticles to deliver two drugs in combination to target cancer cells.
Why is this cancer therapy different?
The drugs which have already been approved for clinical use are an anti-cancer drug called docetaxel, multiple sclerosis drug, fingolimod, that makes tumours more sensitive to chemotherapy.
Currently, fingolimod cannot be used to treat cancer as is suppresses the immune system of the patient, leaving them with dangerously low levels of white blood cells, and although docetaxel is used to treat many cancers, its toxicity can also lead to serious side effects for patients whose tumours are resistant to chemotherapy.
The nanometric size of any nanomedicine allows for interactions with DNA or small proteins at different levels in blood or within organs, tissues or cells.
The nanoparticles developed by the researchers can deliver drugs directly to the tumour site, which vastly reduces the risks of both the drugs used. Additionally, this approach means less of the drug is needed to kill the cancerous cells.
Dr Dmitry Pshezhetskiy from the Norwich Medical School at UEA said: “So far nobody has been able to find an effective way of using fingolimod in cancer patients because it’s so toxic in the blood.
“We’ve found a way to use it that solves the toxicity problem, enabling these two drugs to be used in a highly targeted and powerful combination.”
Developing the nanomedicine
The UEA researchers worked with Precision NanoSystems’ Formulation Solutions Team who used their NanoAssemblr™ technology to investigate if it was possible to synthesise the different components of the therapy at an industrial scale.
The nanoparticle includes a molecule that will show up on MRI scans, enabling clinicians to monitor the spread of the particles through the body. This development in nanomedicine reiterates that nanotechnology can be used to make drugs and other areas of healthcare smarter.