Both ovarian cancer and mesothelioma – a rare cancer of the protective lining of the body’s major cavities and the organs they contain – tend to generate metastases that spread within the abdominal cavity. As a result of these metastases, survival beyond five years drops to less than 40%, even if the metastatic tumors have been surgically moved.
A research team at Boston University, with the participation of investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, has developed a drug-loaded polymeric nanoparticle has that targets and treats these troublesome metastases. The nanoparticle responds to the acidic pH inside tumor cells by expanding and releasing the anticancer agent paclitaxel slowly over a 24 hour period. Tests have shown that these nanoparticles not only decreased tumor growth, but prevented new tumor implantation in the abdominal cavity.
Current mesothelioma treatment consists of some combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, so if this nanoparticle continues to prove successful, this regimen could begin to change. Animals treated with the drug-loaded expandable nanoparticles survived nearly twice as long as animals treated with free paclitaxel, the current therapy for peritoneal tumors. And in other experiments, when the nanoparticles were injected into the abdominal cavity, they homed to tumor sites and remained there for a minimum of seven days.
The National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer is currently trying to harness the power of nanotechnology to radically change the way we diagnose, treat and prevent cancer. Many scientists in the private and public sectors believe that nanotechnology is the key to keeping pace with today’s explosion in scientific knowledge.