By using the body’s own delivery mechanism, researchers have been able to achieve incredible results with 50 times less of the side-effect laded cancer medication.
Paclitaxel is chemotherapy treatment used on lung, breast and pancreatic cancers but carries harsh side effects (but a lot better than having cancer) like hair loss, diarrhea and muscle cramping.
By packaging in containers derived from the patient’s own immune system researchers were able to deliver a much higher percentage of the drug to the cancers cells because the body was not trying to fight the drug.
“That matters because we may eventually be able to treat patients with smaller and more accurate doses of powerful chemotherapy drugs, resulting in more effective treatment with fewer and milder side effects,” explained lead researcher Elena Batrakova, a pharmacologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
There is no new medication being used, rather the increase in effectiveness is completely based on the a better delivery system. This is important because chemotherapy is currently an inefficient method. It is essentially poisoning large areas of the body with the hopes that the cancer is killed, which often times works. But it also leaves a lot of collateral damage to healthy tissues resulting in intense side effects.
The concept of finding a better delivery system is not new, scientist have been searching for better methods for decades. Previously, most attempts involved packaging the drugs in placstics-based nanoparticles. But the body usually recognizes these as foreign and attacks the delivery of the drug as it attacks any other foreign body and infection.
This new method uses exosomes or tiny spheres harvested from a patient’s own white blood cells.
“Exosomes are engineered by nature to be the perfect delivery vehicles,” said Batrakova. “By using exosomes from white blood cells, we wrap the medicine in an invisibility cloak that hides it from the immune system. We don’t know exactly how they do it, but the exosomes swarm the cancer cells, completely bypassing any drug resistance they may have and delivering their payload.”
The test involved loading the drug into exosomes taken from mice, the introducing them into a petri dish containing multiple-drug resistant cancer cells. They found that they need 50 times less of the drug to kill the cancer cells versus currently available commercial versions of the drug.
The next step is to test if this delivery system works as well in live mice and if that goes well, probably on to human test.
While this discovery is very exciting, most experiments that work in the lab or on mice tests do not end up working as well or at all when it comes to the human tests. Still it is an encouraging step.
The results have been published in Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine.