Nano particles to improve cancer therapy
The challenges of chemotherapy
When doctors administer a drug, there are a few factors that go into deciding how much to give. Of particular importance are two key questions:
Firstly, how much drug does a patient need to be given to treat the disease?
Secondly, at what dose do the side effects outweigh the benefits for the patient?
Chemotherapy drugs are highly toxic, particularly to the liver and kidneys. This makes it difficult for doctors to find a balance between giving enough drug to kill the cancer cells and giving too much, causing the drug to accumulate in and damage the liver and kidneys, which act as the body’s filtering system.
This is where nanoparticles come in….
Researchers from Michigan State University have developed a new way to monitor the amount of chemotherapy drug present in a patients body, to help doctors find this balance.
This new technique doesn’t just tell doctors how much drug is present in the body, it can show them where the drug is located. Using nanoparticles, doctors can see the concentration of a chemotherapy drug in the cancerous tumour, and in other tissues such as the liver and kidneys.
Everyone is different –the dose of chemotherapy drug which is appropriate for one patient may only stun, rather than kill, cancer cells in another, or, the dose may be too high and accumulate in the liver and kidneys. This new technology will help take the guesswork out of finding the right dose for each individual patient.
So how does it work?
Brian Smith, associate professor of biomedical engineering and his team have paired magnetic particles to a chemotherapy drug, so scans can show where the chemotherapy drug is located.
According to Smith, the technology is “noninvasive and could give doctors an immediate… visualisation of how the drug is being distributed anywhere in the body” which will allow doctors to “adjust amounts [of the chemotherapy drug] given on the fly”. This means doctors can kill cancer cells while minimising side effects to make the chemotherapy treatment safer, and less unpleasant for the patients.
When will we see this new technology used in hospitals?
The technology is being tested in mice and so far has almost 100% accuracy.
Smith’s team are working towards testing the technology using different types of chemotherapy drug, and are trying to develop a multi-colour system which will show more clearly exactly how much drug is present in different parts of a patients body.
At this stage, clinical trials of the new technology are about seven years away. Although it doesn’t sound it, that is actually fairly soon in terms of developing a new way to help treat cancer!