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Mesothelioma News Nanotechnology Could Revive “Forgotten” Cancer Drugs

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

A group of researchers at the University of North Carolina (UNC) has reported that once-promising cancer drugs that were dismissed due to problems with high toxicity, poor stability, and low solubility could be revived again using nanotechnology.

According to a press release by the university, the group has concluded that a nanoparticle formulation of certain cancer drugs might be safer and more effective than those drugs in their original design, potentially bringing back drugs that seemed to be on the right track but failed to pass trials due to the aforementioned issues.

Specifically, the team of researchers worked with the chemotherapy drug known as wortmannin, which had shown promise in the treatment of ovarian, head and neck, cervical, and small cell lung cancer. They reported their findings in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The nano-method “decreased toxicity and increased stability, solubility and effectiveness,” said Andrew Wang, one of the senior authors of the University of North Carolina study. “Additionally, nanoparticle wortmannin can improve the efficacy of radiotherapy dramatically and is more effective than the most commonly utilized chemotherapeutics.”

Wang said that applying the nanoparticle formulation to so-called forgotten drugs could be revolutionary in the world of cancer treatment. “There is a large number of these ‘forgotten’ drugs that can be revived and re-evaluated using nanoparticle drug delivery,” Wang pointed out. “These drugs can provide new targets and offer new strategies that previously didn’t exist.”
Large drug companies also see promise in nanotechnology and the potential of new and novel ways to deliver chemotherapy drugs. Many of them, including Pfizer, Eli Lilly, and AstraZeneca, have recently cleaned house and turned over a number of failed treatments to the National Institutes of Health in hopes that they can be revived through reformulation such as that used by the researchers at UNC. This shows great promise for hard-to-treat cancers like asbestos-caused mesothelioma, a disease for which few chemo treatments have been successful.