A research team funded by the National Science Council (NSC) said it has developed a new method using nanotechnology to deliver drugs directly to the cancer cells — like a missile being guided to a target — while reducing side effects to a minimum.
National Science Council Deputy Director-General Hocheng Hong (賀陳弘) told a press conference yesterday in Taipei that while chemotherapy often causes side effects because the drugs used can damage healthy cells as well and targeted therapy is too expensive for many patients, the team’s new method could provide a new option.
The team, led by Chen San-yuan (陳三元), a professor in National Chiao Tung University’s materials science and engineering department, developed a drug carrier with iron oxide nanoparticles that can encapulsate more than one type of drug — such as Adriamycin and Paclitaxel —reducing the harm caused by the toxic drugs to other parts of the body as they are delivered through the veins.
An iron oxide nanoparticle carrier is small enough to travel through the veins to enter the area where cancer cells are rapidly growing, and since it is magnetic it can be guided to the targeted cancer cells using a magnet, Chen said.
The new method can solve one of the traditional problems with chemotherapy, which is that only about 10 percent of the drugs actually reach the targeted cells.
The “Nano-MagCapsule” acts like a rocket that releases objects in different stages, Chen said.
It can release the one type of drug when it first reaches the tumor tissue, and release a second type of drug later to fight the more difficult-to-reach cells in deeper parts of the tissue, such as the cancer stem cells and tumor hypoxia, he said.
Animal experiments have shown the method to be very effective. It can also reduce the amount of drugs needed to about one-fifth of the usual chemotherapy doses, he said.
Experiments are underway to test the method on breast cancer, brain tumors and lung cancer, he said.
As the drugs used in the trials have already been certified by the government, the team’s method is likely to be approved for clinical trial and usage rather than in the development of totally new drugs, Chen said.
The method has already been patented and the technology transferred to a Taiwanese biotechnology company, the council said.
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