Ohio State University scientists have designed tumor-penetrating microparticles (TPM) may offer treatment hope for those suffering with pancreatic cancer.
Tiny particles can carry drugs and target cancer cells more effectively and efficiently than the standard form of chemotherapy such as those injected through a vein.
"Pancreatic cancer cells are surrounded by specialized cells that protect them from chemotherapy," said Jessie L.S. Au, Pharm.D., h.D., an AAPS fellow and a distinguished university professor at Ohio State University.
"Our goal is to use TPM to pass this barrier and successfully deliver drugs to the tumor cells, which is currently the biggest hurdle a physician faces in pancreatic cancer treatment," Au added.
TPM are designed to treat cancer in the peritoneal cavity. The peritoneal cavity contains organs, including the pancreas.
Au said that TPM releases what the researchers call a "smart bomb" of drugs to create holes in the tumor so TPM can reach tumor cells.
Once inside a tumor, TPM slowly releases drug levels that are sustained over several weeks, targeting both the rapid- and slow-growing tumors.
Because the TPM were designed to move about and reach tumors without being swept away by the lymphatic system, they are able to stay in the peritoneal cavity longer and deliver highly concentrated drug doses to the cancer-affected organ.
It is this two-tiered drug attack that is unique in pancreatic cancer treatment.
With just one TPM dose of drugs proving to be equally as effective as multiple injections of chemotherapy, TPM delivers less toxicity to patients, making it a safer option than the standard form of other therapies.
"Based on the encouraging results in mice carrying implants of human pancreatic cancer, we are cautiously optimistic that TPM may provide benefits to patients with this disease," said Dr Ze Lu, principal scientist and project leader.
The findings were presented at the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) Annual Meeting in Los Angeles.