Nanotech Drug Delivery Research for Melanoma Treatment

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Researchers from Oregon State University develop a new three-drug delivery system for cancer treatment.

Researchers from Oregon State University (OSU) have developed a new three-drug delivery system for cancer treatment, specifically metastatic melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. According to researchers, this system may have particular value for cancers that spread through the lymphatic system.

The findings were discovered during a study done on laboratory animals, and published in the Journal of Controlled Release by researchers from the College of Pharmacy at OSU. The work was supported by an OSU startup fund, and a provisional patent has been granted for this technology.

“Melanoma can be a very difficult cancer to treat because it often metastasizes and travels through the lymphatic system,” said lead author Adam Alani, an assistant professor in the Oregon State University/Oregon Health & Science University College of Pharmacy. “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.”

The new technology uses nanoparticles that increase the effectiveness of attacks on cancer cells in the body's lymph nodes. Use of the technology also purportedly reduces the development of drug resistance, and the broader toxicity often associated with this type of chemotherapy.

The new OSU research was able to combine three anti-cancer drugs at the same time into a nanoparticle delivery system. After injection, these nanoparticles primarily migrated to lymph nodes, acted in a synergistic manner that was more powerful than any one drug separately, and maximized their impact in those locations while minimizing the development of drug resistance and overall toxicity.

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.


This could become an important advance in the treatment of any type of cancer that tends to move through the lymphatic system, Alani noted, including melanoma, but also breast, head and neck, prostate, pancreatic, lung, and gastric cancers.

According to the OSU researchers, up to 80% of melanomas metastasize through the lymphatic system and the tumor cells even secrete growth factors to further streamline their progress. The major drawback of existing therapies, they said, 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 research showed 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.

Souce: Oregon State University