Pharmacy researchers have developed a new drug delivery system for lung cancer that appears to be extremely effective. In this treatment, patients can inhale the chemotherapeutic drugs directly into the lungs.
The drug uses nanotechnology to increase its effectiveness. The drug is contained in nanoparticles, material on a molecular scale, and is delivered along with strands of RNA that inhibit the cancer cell’s response mechanisms. Combined, these elements almost completely wiped out lung cancer in animals.
This technology represents a real advance in the treatment of lung cancer, the leading cause of death of all the cancers for both men and women. Up to now, chemotherapy treatment for lung cancer has been hampered because of the toxicity of the drugs and the problem of getting the drugs into the lungs.
Conventional chemotherapy involves delivering the drugs intravenously. But when done this way, the drugs can be harmful to other organs in the body and cause other harmful side effects.
But inhalation enables physicians to target just the lung tumor cells. This chemotherapy has been found to eliminate lung tumors, not just suppress them as with other forms of treatment.
This treatment is based on nanotechnology. Minute particles that are similar in size to molecules carry the drugs into the lungs. Because of their size, the particles are easily inhaled and bind easily to the cancer cells.
But this mixture also contains another element – RNA. The RNA also works to kill the cancer cells. Cancer cells are able to fight off drugs in two different ways. One way is through a kind of pump method where the cells pump the drug out. The second type of resistance does not involve the pump but still enables the cancer cell to resist the drugs. The RNA works to overcome both methods employed by the cells, leaving them open to attack by the drugs.
Inhaling the drugs directly also helps to maintain their potency. When the drugs are delivered intravenously, they begin to lose their potency even before getting to the lungs. Also, because the drugs are inhaled, there are fewer side effects. When the drugs are delivered intravenously, they have a tendency to build up in the liver, kidney and spleen. As a result, less of the drug gets to the lungs.
With the new drug delivery system, almost 85 percent of the dose made it to the lungs, compared with just 25 percent delivered in the conventional way.
If the treatment proves to be as effective in humans, pharmacists in the not too distant future will have a new weapon in their chemotherapeutic arsenal in their fight against cancer.
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