Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance NewsNew "Inhaled" Lung Cancer Drug May Be on the Horizon

Pat Guth contributes news and insightful content for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.

Patricia Guth

May 28, 2013

Researchers from Oregon State University, Rutgers University, and the Cancer Institute of New Jersey report that they have developed a new system that lung cancer patients will be able to use to inhale chemo medications, hopefully eliminating many of the toxic side effects associated with traditional chemotherapy drugs.

A report on the study, outlined in Gizmag, profiles the new method of delivering anti-cancer drugs to those suffering from lung cancer. Patients will inhale nanoparticles, researchers explain, which will carry the drug(s) directly to the lungs. This allows for more targeted treatment that offers far fewer side effects. These so-called “nanostructured lipid nanocarriers” will attach to cancer cells, the study explains, and since they are smaller than a speck of dust, they are easy to inhale.

“Lung cancer damage is usually not localized, which makes chemotherapy an important part of treatment,” said Oleh Taratula, an assistant professor at Oregon State University’s College of Pharmacy and one of the co-authors of the study. “However, the drugs used are toxic and can cause organ damage and severe side effects if given conventionally through intravenous administration.”

The nanoparticles will also carry small interfering RNA, the article adds. “This is a molecule that helps control and repress certain genes and makes the cancer cells more vulnerable by helping to eliminate both ‘pump’ resistance, where the drugs are expelled from the cancer cell interior, and ‘non-pump’ resistance, which keeps the cancer cell from dying,” the researchers explain.

By using inhaled drugs, doctors are also ensuring that the chemotherapeutic agents arrive in a more intact form than if they were injected via intravenous methods. When chemotherapy drugs are given intravenously, they tend to build up in the spleen, liver, and kidneys before they even make it to the cancer site. Research data on this particular study confirmed that, with the inhaled method, a whopping 83 percent of the drug reached the lungs (in animal trials) as compared to 23 percent via the intravenous method of delivery.

“A drug delivery system that can be inhaled is a much more efficient approach, targeting just the cancer cells as much as possible,” said Taratula. “Other chemotherapeutic approaches only tend to suppress tumors, but this system appears to eliminate it.”

More research is required before moving on to human trials though the researchers have applied for a patent for the inhalation technology. Nonetheless, the future of lung cancer patients – including those with mesothelioma – looks a little brighter today.

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