New Nanotech Drug Delivery System May Improve Melanoma Treatment

Researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) are reporting that they have come up with a new nanotech drug delivery system that may combat melanoma in a whole new way.

Researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) are reporting that they have come up with a new nanotech drug delivery system that may combat melanoma in a whole new way. They have developed a new three-drug delivery system that may have particular value in treating cancers that spread through the lymphatic system. 

The findings were published in the Journal ofControlled Release by researchers from the College of Pharmacy at Oregon State University which involved nanoparticles containing docetaxel, everolimus, and LY294002 in a polymer with different charge distributions. The new technology takes advantage of nanoparticles that can migrate to the lymph nodes and increase the effectiveness of an attack on cancer cells. The researchers theorized that this approach may reduce the development of drug resistance and the broader toxicity often associated with this type of chemotherapy.

“Melanoma can be a very difficult cancer to treat because it often metastasizes and travels through the lymphatic system,” said lead study author Adam Alani, PhD, assistant professor in the Oregon State University/Oregon Health & Science University College of Pharmacy, in an OSU press release.  “Melanoma has a high mortality rate because the lymph nodes tend to act as a haven for cancer cells, and allow them to resist treatment through chemotherapy.”

Alani and his team have found that the nanoparticles in an animal model primarily migrated to lymph nodes and acted in a synergistic manner that was more powerful than any one drug alone. In addition, this delivery system was able to maximize the impact of the medications in the lymph nodes while minimizing the development of drug resistance and overall toxicity. The researchers also found that the laboratory mice treated with this approach all survived.

The therapy caused no apparent negative effects, and at least one type of the nanoparticles migrated effectively to distant lymph nodes where the drugs significantly reduced the number of melanoma cells.  The researchers believe more animal studies and human clinical trials are warranted in light of the findings.  Alani said this type of delivery system may be especially useful in treating breast, head and neck, prostate, pancreatic, lung, and gastric cancers.

Researchers report that approximately 80% of melanomas metastasize through the lymphatic system and the tumor cells even secrete growth factors to further streamline their progress. The enlarged lymphatic vessels act as a freeway for the metastatic cells to spread to distal lymph nodes and organs, according to the researchers.

Alani said a major drawback of existing therapies is the inability to deliver therapeutic concentrations of drugs to the lymphatic system without creating systemic toxicity. Use of drugs one at a time also tends to breed resistance to them. The nanoparticles used to carry these cancer drugs are stable, increase the drug circulation time, and can deliver multiple drugs in a single step to the desired target with a simple injection.