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New Delivery System for Lung Cancer Treatment Eliminates Tumors in Animal Trials

May 23, 2013 10:09 AM EDT

Lung cancer may soon go the way of polio should a new drug delivery system developed by researchers prove to be as effective in humans as it has been in animals.

The treatment combines the small size of nanoparticles with existing cancer drugs as well as small interfering RNA (siRNA) responsible for shutting down the ability of cancer cells to resist attack – a combination that has resulted in the virtual disappearance of lung tumors in experiments thus far.

Furthermore, because it can be inhaled, the new method is not only apparently more effective in treating the disease: in conventional chemotherapy only an average of 23 percent of the drugs end up in the lungs, versus 83 percent with the new treatment, according to a press release on the study.

“A delivery system that can be inhaled is a much more efficient approach, targeting just the cancer cells as much as possible,” Oleh Taratula, an assistant professor at Oregon State University and co-author on the study, said. “Other chemotherapeutic approaches only tend to suppress tumors, but this system seems to eliminate it.”

Part of that may also have to do with the fact that by being inhaled, the system avoids the degradation of the chemotherapeutic agents that takes place upon injection.

The benefits of the new system are not limited to higher efficiency, however, but apply also to the fact that it appears to reduce the systemic damage done to other organs in the process.

“Lung cancer damage is usually not localized, which makes chemotherapy an important part of the treatment,” Taratula said. “However, the drugs used are toxic and can cause organ damage and severe side effects if given conventionally through intravenous administration.”

For these reasons, while other chemotherapeutic treatments “only tend to suppress tumors,” Taratula said, the new form of treatment actually “appears to eliminate it.”

Due to their positive results, the team of researchers is currently applying for a patent for the technology though more testing is necessary before it is ready for human clinical trials, according to the researchers.

Published in the Journal of Controlled Release, the study was funed by the National Cancer Institute, National Science Foundation and Department of Defense.

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