Lung Cancer Treatment May Improve with New Chemotherapy Delivery System

Lung Cancer Cell

A new delivery system that would allow the inhalation of chemotherapy drugs for lung cancer has shown considerable promise in increasing efficacy and dramatically reducing the toxic side effects that often cause patients to stop treatment.

The recent discovery involving experimental nanomedicine and lung cancer tumors in animal and laboratory tests, eventually could lead to a future and significant breakthrough in the treatment of mesothelioma cancer.

Researchers at Rutgers University, the Cancer Institute of New Jersey and Oregon State University, with funding from the National Institutes of Health, compared their findings to the traditional intravenous delivery of chemotherapy.

"This was very promising," said Tamara Minko, Ph.D.,  Department of Pharmaceutics chair at Rutgers. "We're ready to move on to a clinical trial (with humans). There just needs to be funding."

Mesothelioma Research Needs Funding

A patent on the new technology is currently in the application stage.

Minko emphasized that the research involved only lung cancer, but she wondered if the same methods would work with pleural mesothelioma, which involves the thin membrane surrounding the lungs. Mesothelioma is a rare but difficult to treat cancer that is caused by inhalation or ingestion of microscopic asbestos fibers.

"I think it might work there,  but that's just a guess right now," Minko told Asbestos. com. "That would have to be checked, but I think it should. It would take more research to say that. You may have given me an idea."

Minko said her laboratory would be capable of conducting the mesothelioma research if another funding grant was obtained.

Inhalation Could Reduce Side Effects of Chemo

The research was done using existing chemotherapy drugs, small interfering Ribonucleic Acid (siRNA) that make cancer cells more vulnerable, and molecular-sized nanoparticles.

The inhalation of the drugs allows for a more targeted approach, allowing them to go directly to the lungs without accumulating in the liver, kidneys and spleen, which leads to the awful side effects. The research estimated that 83 percent of the drug reached the intended target with inhalation, as opposed to just 23 percent with the intravenous method of delivery.

"This is a much more efficient approach," Minko said. "It's safer and more effective when you can deliver this way. It works much better."

According to a press release announcing the findings, the carrier system involves "tiny particles much smaller than a speck of dust that are easily inhaled and also readily attach to cancer cells."

Key to the system is the siRNA, which eliminates resistance within the cancer cells and makes them more vulnerable to the chemotherapy drugs .

Despite advances in lung cancer surgery, chemotherapy still plays a big role in the treatment. And the toxicity of the drugs continues to be a problem, which makes a better delivery method so important.

An estimated 160,000 Americans are expected to die in 2013 from lung cancer, the leading cancer killer. The results of the research were published in the Journal of Controlled Release.

"At least we have hope," Minko said. "With this technology, testing can be very expensive. And not everyone believes in this stuff. But it is time to move forward, and to see what happens."

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