Credit: University of East Anglia
Researchers at the University of East Anglia have developed a new nanoparticle-based cancer therapy to deliver a combination therapy directly to cancer cells.
The new therapy, which has been demonstrated to make prostate cancer and breast cancer tumors more sensitive to chemotherapy, is currently close to entering clinical trials.
Researchers at UEA’s Norwich Medical School have established that it can be mass-produced, making it a practical treatment if ascertained as effective in human trials.
Using nanoparticles to send the drugs straight into a tumor is a growing area of cancer study. The technology created at UEA is the first of its kind to use nanoparticles to transport two drugs in combination to target cancer cells.
The drugs, already permitted for clinical use, are an anti-cancer drug known as docetaxel, and fingolimod, a multiple sclerosis drug that renders tumors more sensitive to chemotherapy.
Fingolimod cannot presently be used in cancer treatment as it also overpowers the immune system, leaving patients with seriously low levels of white blood cells.
While docetaxel is used to treat a number of cancers, mainly breast, stomach, prostate, head, and neck, and a few types of lung cancers, its poisonousness can also result in severe side effects for patients whose tumors are chemo-resistant.
Since the nanoparticles created by the UEA team can deliver the drugs straight to the tumor site, these risks are greatly lowered. Furthermore, the targeted approach means less of the drug is required to destroy the cancer cells.
So far nobody has been able to find an effective way of using fingolimod in cancer patients because it’s so toxic in the blood. We’ve found a way to use it that solves the toxicity problem, enabling these two drugs to be used in a highly targeted and powerful combination.
Dr Dmitry Pshezhetskiy, Chief Researcher, Norwich Medical School, UEA
The UEA scientists partnered with Precision NanoSystems’ Formulation Solutions Team who used their NanoAssemblr™ technology to examine if it was possible to synthesize the therapy’s various components at an industrial scale.
After successful results on industrial scale production, and a published international patent application, the UEA researchers are currently seeking industrial partners and licensees to move the research towards a phase-one clinical trial.
The nanoparticle package also includes molecules that will show up on an MRI scan, enabling clinicians to monitor the movement of the particles through the body.
The team has already performed trials in mice that reveal the therapy is effective in decreasing prostate and breast tumors. These results were reported in 2017.
Significantly, all the components used in the therapy are already cleared for clinical use in Europe and the United States. This paves the way for the next stage of the research, where we’ll be preparing the therapy for patient trials.
Dr Dmitry Pshezhetskiy, C hief R esearcher, Norwich Medical School, UEA