Mesothelioma is an intractable cancer on the membranes that surround the lungs, heart or abdominal organs. Most drugs used to treat it are delivered either intravenously or, more rarely, orally. But several groups of scientists are working on cancer drugs that can be delivered in other ways, potentially limiting the negative impact on healthy tissues.
At Griffith University in Australia, researchers have completed animal testing on a new type of mesothelioma drug that could be delivered through the skin. The drug relies on tiny molecules with the ability to penetrate the skin and seek out mesothelioma cells. In an article in the Courier Mail, Griffith University medical professor Jiri Neuzil explained that the drug, contained in a cream or patch, attacks the mitochondria which generate energy for cells. The drug and delivery method reportedly worked well in mice and Neuzil is cautiously optimistic about its prospects in human mesothelioma patients.
“We have a good chance here but I don’t want to pre-empt it with success. We’ve got the clinical trial to go yet to see if it works in humans,” Neuzil told the Courier Mail. Cancer drugs that attack the mitochondria are among Dr. Neuzil’s primary areas of research. Mesothelioma research is especially active in Australia, which has one of the world’s highest per capita rates of the rare cancer.
Another new study, this one from Oregon State University, focuses on a delivery system that allows chemotherapy drugs to be inhaled directly into the lungs. The technology relies on nanoparticles, extremely small particles that can enter cancer cells and deliver cancer drugs along with other compounds that shut down the cell’s ability to resist attack.
“A drug delivery system that can be inhaled is a much more efficient approach, targeting just the cancer cells as much as possible,” says chief researcher Oleh Taratula. “Other chemotherapeutic approaches only tend to suppress tumors, but this system appears to eliminate it.” Although the technology has only been tested in lung cancer so far, it could eventually prove useful for patients with the pleural form of mesothelioma, which typically starts in the pleural membrane around the lungs and often involves the lungs.
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New Drug Delivery Methods May Improve Mesothelioma Treatment