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One of the problems that cancer patients face is that many of the most potent anticancer therapies can be administered only by injection, which means that cancer patients must travel to receive their medication. But thanks to a new type of nanoparticle developed by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, future cancer patients may be able to receive their medication in pill form.
Anirban Maitra, M.D., and colleagues developed the new polymeric nanoparticle from three different starting materials that they then linked together in various proportions. The investigators found that nanoparticles made of six parts N-isopropylacrylamide, two parts methylmethacrylate, and two parts acrylic acid had suitable pharmacological properties. Indeed, nanoparticles of this composition readily incorporated water-insoluble drugs and were capable of delivering those drugs into the bloodstream after oral administration.
In a paper published in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, the researchers noted that they chose the three starting materials because they expected that the resulting polymers would stick to the mucosal layer in the gastrointestinal tract. This adhesive property gives cells in the gastrointestinal tract cells the opportunity to engulf the nanoparticles and ferry them into the bloodstream.
Tests with the anticancer drug rapamycin showed that this formulation had good pharmacokinetic properties in test animals. More importantly, these nanoparticles were able to deliver rapamycin to human pancreatic tumors implanted in the test animals. In fact, assays showed that oral dosing with this nanoparticle formulation triggered the changes in tumor cell biochemistry expected from rapamycin administration. Additional tests showed that even "mega" doses of empty nanoparticles administered for 4 weeks caused no apparent toxicities.
About National Cancer Institute
The NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer is a comprehensive, systematized initiative encompassing the public and private sectors, designed to accelerate the application of the best capabilities of nanotechnology to cancer.
Currently, scientists are limited in their ability to turn promising molecular discoveries into benefits for cancer patients. Nanotechnology can provide the technical power and tools that will enable those developing new diagnostics, therapeutics, and preventives to keep pace with today’s explosion in knowledge.
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