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Using Nanoparticles To Improve Chemotherapy

Unknown Lamer posted about 2 years ago | from the or-give-walter-skinner-a-heart-attack dept.

Medicine 35

sciencehabit writes with good news involving cancer research. From the article: "Chemotherapy drugs are like a shotgun. Even though doctors are just aiming for tumors, the compounds hit a variety of other places in the body, leading to side effects like bone marrow damage and hair loss. To improve their aim, researchers have tried to package these drugs inside tiny hollow nano-sized containers that can be directed toward tumors and bypass healthy tissues. But the size, shape, and makeup of these 'nanoparticles' can drastically affect where and when they are taken up. Now, scientists have surveyed the landscape of some 100 different nanoparticle formulations and shown that when a conventional chemotherapeutic drug is packaged inside the best of these nanoparticles, it proves considerably more effective at fighting prostate cancer (summary; article paywalled) in animals than the drug alone."

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is it me or does it seem like (3, Insightful)

nimbius (983462) | about 2 years ago | (#39598987)

instead of correlating cancer to things like BPE and other refined petrochemical bioaccumulants as well as using science to determine threatining chemicals in our endless consumer-driven product lines, we're just ignoring these or calling them 'cancer-suspect agents' or redefining the PEL to be met under laughably unrealistic conditions in the real world?

id make a cursory assertion that the lock-step rise in cancer rates is probably related somehow to the twin revolving-doors of the EPA and FDA, through which industry experts and regulators are frankly indistinguishable and utterly useless.

Re:is it me or does it seem like (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39599071)

Yes, let's totally abandon all the conveniences of modern life due to slight possible health risks.
How about birth control pills?


Love the greens and their nostalgia for a simpler time when we all lived short agricultural subsistence living life spans.

Nothing like actually working an organic subsistence farm on a commune to find this stuff pretty laughable.

Re:is it me or does it seem like (1)

Pewpdaddy (1364159) | about 2 years ago | (#39599173)

I don't think he wants to go back to the stone age, but the EPA and FDA flounder around regularly. They are understaffed for what they are expected to do, and like all politics it's a farce anyway. No ones required to tell you what they've done to the food they sell you, and the drugs on the market now-a-days carry more side affects than cures.

Re:is it me or does it seem like (1)

doston (2372830) | about 2 years ago | (#39600471)

I don't think he wants to go back to the stone age, but the EPA and FDA flounder around regularly. They are understaffed for what they are expected to do, and like all politics it's a farce anyway. No ones required to tell you what they've done to the food they sell you, and the drugs on the market now-a-days carry more side affects than cures.

So we've got security theater, regulatory theater and probably cancer research theater, too, since I still, in 2012, walk around the local co-op and regularly see bald, pale cancer patients even after years of reading about wonderous new cancer discoveries. Remember that two statin combo that cured *all* forms of cancer (in mice) in the late 90s or early 2000s? Part of me thinks they'll never cure it and the whole point of all this is just to create "hope" so money will continue to pour in and researchers will have jobs. From what you'll hear from any lay person, there's no incentive to actually cure anything. Is that a fair assesssment or bordering on tinfoil helmet time?

Re:is it me or does it seem like (2)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 2 years ago | (#39599301)

Not to mention that there are estimates that about 80% of these studies cannot be reproduced.

Including the BPA ones.

http://toxsci.oxfordjournals.org/content/114/1/1.full [oxfordjournals.org]

While it's fine to be conservative when considering the impact of adding something to the food chain, we need to also consider these studies with a very jaundiced eye. The simple fact of this matter is that in the worst case scenarios, i.e. occupational exposure (workers at the actual factories that make this stuff) there is no epidemiological evidence of problems. And there is no known mechanism for the extreme low level effects that are being reported in many of these studies.

Re:is it me or does it seem like (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39607071)

Excuse me doctor --- since you don't know the biochemical details of how that medicine works, I think I prefer to die.

  There's no known mechanism for a lot medicines, poisons and disease/environment correlations of all types. That means essentially nothing here. You don't want to wait for research to nail down mechanisms. You want to proceed, right now, with whatever treatment is available.

Re:is it me or does it seem like (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39599567)

I'd be more concerned about overall dose of radiation. Did you know that airline crews receive a higher dose of radiation than any other profession? Even working in a nuclear power plant exposes you to less ionizing radiation (assuming you aren't in one that you know, blows up, melts down, etc). Cancer is caused by dna mutation, ionizing radiation is good at that. Every single living thing is exposed to some level of ionizing radiation. Even if that level is "safe" any increase will increase your odds of getting cancer. Safe just means its not going to increase your odds of death "soon".


Re:is it me or does it seem like (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39599629)

Actually, radiation exposure is not linear.

Low levels are easily handled by the body since we've evolved to deal with low levels.

In fact, there is evidence that low but slightly elevated levels may have a protective effect, due to hormesis.

Re:is it me or does it seem like (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39599971)

What you are saying is valid but does not relate to radiation causing cancer. It relates to say, radiation flat out killing you from destroying your body's critical tissue faster than it can regenerate and keep you alive (say, membrane of the lungs for instance, lining of the stomach or intestines, etc). You can be exposed to tons of radiation but never get a random cancer causing dnamutation, or you could be exposed to only normal radiation and get a random cancer causing dna mutation. Sorta like how a person can be shot 10 times and live (say arms legs shoulders no vital organs or arteries), but a person shot in the head has a tendency to die. While it only takes one, statistically speaking bullets are bad for your body (each has a statistical chance of being a critical hit, the more hits = greater overall chance). Roll a 6 sided die, if you roll one you die, 1 in 6 right odds right? Now roll 2, if either one rolls a 1 you die, now 3... your chances increases as the number of rolls increases.

Radiation causes many different types of mutation. Some of its good (drives evolution for instance), some isn't good but not particularly harmful (breaks cell wall, cell dies, meh, cells die all the time). In those cases radiation exposure damage isn't linear, your body is able to cope with so much as a time.

But Cancer is different. Cellular damage from radiation isn't particularly rare, but among that mutation is somewhat rare (speaking lots of ionizing incidents and lots of cells in a body here, so bear with the definition of "rare"). Cancer is a RARE form (or forms if you will) of mutation which causes a cells otherwise limited reproductive (splitting) cycle to become unlimited.

Normally when DNS strands split they lose a Telomere, eventually the splits run out of telomeres. In the case of say skin which replenishes all your life, a adult stem cell from your bone marrow enters your blood stream, it becomes the "first" skin cell of this splitting process, it will then over time split about 20-30ish times to produce a whole lotta cells. If the Telomere chain didn't get shorter, this would go on for ever, ie, you'd get a lump that grew larger and larger and larger.

A little bit of cancer isn't good for you due to the "grows forever" thing.

Re:is it me or does it seem like (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39600255)

I was responding specifically to radiation causing cancer.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiation_hormesis [wikipedia.org]

"Proponents of radiation hormesis typically claim that radio-protective responses in cells and the immune system not only counter the harmful effects of radiation but additionally act to inhibit spontaneous cancer not related to radiation exposure."

Note I didn't say that it was proven either.

They go on to outline a growing body of research that illustrates that the human body is not a passive accumulator of radiation damage but it actively repairs the damage caused via a number of different processes, including:[8][10]

        Mechanisms that mitigate reactive oxygen species generated by ionizing radiation and oxidative stress.
        Apoptosis of radiation damaged cells that may undergo tumorigenesis is initiated at only few mSv.
        Cell death during meiosis of radiation damaged cells that were unsuccessfully repaired.
        The existence of a cellular signaling system that alerts neighboring cells of cellular damage.
        The activation of enzymatic DNA repair mechanisms around 10 mSv.
        Modern DNA microarray studies which show that numerous genes are activated at radiation doses well below the level that mutagenesis is detected.
        Radiation-induced tumorigenesis may have a threshold related to damage density, as revealed by experiments that employ blocking grids to thinly distribute radiation.
        A large increase in tumours in immunosuppressed individuals illustrates that the immune system efficiently destroys aberrant cells and nascent tumors.

Furthermore, increased sensitivity to radiation induced cancer in the inherited condition Ataxia-telangiectasia like disorder, illustrates the damaging effects of loss of the repair gene Mre11h resulting in the inability to fix DNA double-strand breaks.[16]

Re:is it me or does it seem like (3, Interesting)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#39600307)

id make a cursory assertion that the lock-step rise in cancer rates is probably related somehow to the twin revolving-doors of the EPA and FDA

You woudn't if you'd been alive before the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act like I was. The difference between now and 1969 is incredible, especially around factories.

Back then, when cars didn't have air conditioning, you had to have the windows rolled up when driving past a Monsanto plant because the air literally burned your lungs and made your eyes water. What little vegetation there was anywhere near these plants was brown and sickly. Now drive past a Monsanto plant and you might catch a whiff of bleach at worst, and usually smell nothing at all, and there's now healthy green vegetation.

Before the EPA, rivers and streams were so polluted that they actually caught fire.

This graph (PDF) [ucsd.edu] shows cancer rates between 1930 and 2000. There's a slow rise in lung cancers from 1930 to the late 1940s, when they rose far faster until around 1990 when they started dropping. It makes me suspect radiation is the primary culprit, since above ground atom bomb testing started in the mid '40s and stopped in the 1960s.

Your primary source of chemical carcinogens (you being a desk-bound nerd as opposed to someone working at Monsanto) is probably your automobile. Both the fumes from the gasoline and the exhaust from your tailpipe are highly carcinogenic.

I googled BPE and found no chemical with that name.

.500 Black Powder Express
Bachelor of Physical Education
Ballpark estimate
Banco Popular Español, banking group in Spain
Barclays Private Equity
Bataan Provincial Expressway in the Philippines
Before Present Era - a year numbering system often used in archaeology in which the year 1950 is used as the epoch marker, an alternative to Before Present.
Berliner Parkeisenbahn, a ridable miniature railway near Berlin Wuhlheide station
Bureau of Public Enterprises in Nigeria
Byte pair encoding in computing
Spanish ship Juan Carlos I (L61), initially known as Buque de ProyecciÃn Estratégica

I doubt you were referring to Byte Pair Encoding. The chemical that makes plastic stiff maybe? I can't remember what the stuff is called.

Re:is it me or does it seem like (1)

treeves (963993) | about 2 years ago | (#39600775)

Probably meant BPA (bisphenol-A) . Monomer used to make polycarbonate (the plastic that CDs and some bottles and other things are made of.)
I think it's blamed for a lot of things and many places are banning it, don't know how much of that blame is correctly placed.

Re:is it me or does it seem like (1)

asher09 (1684758) | about 2 years ago | (#39601129)

BPE = biphenyl ether
Their derivatives are used in plastics and as flame retardants in many different products. They're super common. Sorry no citation. I'm an organic chemist that have worked with those chemicals

Re:is it me or does it seem like (1)

Guppy (12314) | about 2 years ago | (#39601443)

That's pretty much the situation they have in some parts of China today (although supposedly it's getting better, slowly). They actually have pretty good environmental protection laws on the books, but the environmental ministry itself has relatively little power -- so enforcement tends to be at the whim of the wealthy and powerful, depending on whether it is benefiting or costing them in any particular situation.

Can't reproduce the results, right? (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 2 years ago | (#39599237)

Didn't we just get a big article about how cancer related publications are not trustworthy? Why do we trust this one?

Re:Can't reproduce the results, right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39599869)

Why do we trust this one?

We (royal we, of course) don't trust this one until it is properly retested by a cynical third party. It looks promising, and so it should be tested. The current step is much like the "planning what to do if I won the lottery" stage, while trust is at the "buying that yacht" stage.

Or, to toss in a car anology. At this point we're looking at a list of features, trust comes in when we actually test out that "amphibious mode" bit on page 3.

It's also very effective (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39599437)

At poisoning the kidney and liver. Nanoparticles were never meant as a drug delivery system, but a tumor indication drug, perhaps with a nuclear tag. Most of them get caught in the liver and kidneys, and if they are filled with poison, they'll cause a lot of trouble.

Re:It's also very effective (3, Informative)

reverseengineer (580922) | about 2 years ago | (#39599795)

Depends on what the material of the nanoparticles is. The PEG-PLA system used in this study doesn't tend to accumulate, and in fact the lactic acid from the breakdown of PLA can be metabolized. Similarly, the drug Abraxane, already on the market, uses nanoparticles of human serum albumin. In terms of the liver and kidneys getting exposed to the released drug, yes, that is a hazard, but one that exists regardless of the delivery method. Using nanoparticles can greatly increase the solubility and bioavailability of many drugs so that less can be used.

Even better (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39599553)


A DNA box with a lock that senses cell surface proteins. It opens and dumps its cargo only when the right chemical combination is present.

I hope it works on more dangerous cancers (1)

erice (13380) | about 2 years ago | (#39599757)

Prostate cancer tends to strike late in life and is very slow growing. It is so unlikely to kill that there has been considerable debate on whether it makes sense to screen for it. On average, the treatment is worse than the disease. Left untreated, victims usually live long enough to die from other things before the cancer can become a problem.

Re:I hope it works on more dangerous cancers (1)

reverseengineer (580922) | about 2 years ago | (#39601369)

There has been some research into the use of nanoparticle delivery systems for treatment of glioblastoma multiforme, a brain tumor which is often both aggressive and difficult to treat conventionally. Here is an example [nih.gov] that met with some success.

End it all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39599895)

Cannabinoids kill cancer, medical industry chemotherapy drugs kill you.


Re:End it all (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39600827)

If it were true, would there not be epidemiological studies showing a lower cancer rate among stoners?

Hmmm... (1)

samazon (2601193) | about 2 years ago | (#39599991)

I wonder where they find animals with prostate cancer. Is there a farm/factory where rats with prostate cancer are produced? Do they inject cancer cells into the rats/dogs/pigs/whatever to simulate cancer? If so, how can anyone be sure that artificially induced cancer will react the same as homegrown cancer? Next Dear Google, I think.

Re:Hmmm... (1)

samazon (2601193) | about 2 years ago | (#39600239)

In case anyone was curious:

Cancer is induced in lab animals by injecting chemical compounds. I presume that they inject directly into whatever organ they want to study (prostate, liver, etc).

Unregulated cellular grown due to genetic abnormality/mutation (cancer) - is differentiated based on location and a slew of other things. Apparently, when your cells are mutating, you can lose an entire chromosome. Neat, huh? So it's just killing all the mutated genes and hoping that no more mutate. Leads me to believe that almost any environmentally-obtained cancer can be studied/treated/cured/whatever by this particular class of treatment, but those who get cancer from their intrinsic qualities (genetically, I mean) are screwed in terms of this type of treatment and will have to wait for advancements in gene therapy.

Holy Moly, the Pink Ribbons Were Right! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39600079)

when a conventional chemotherapeutic drug is packaged inside the best of these nanoparticles, it proves considerably more effective at fighting prostate cancer

In college, whenever a breast cancer awareness thing came up, women would tell me "If this was a cancer of the penis, they'd have already solved it."

Huzzah, ye men of science! You've done it!

How do you target a tumor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39601557)

Seriously? We see conceptual videos of these things, and it looks like sci-movie where the item is serenely navigating it's way through a colorful passageway. In reality a blood vessel is a chaotic journey where items movement are ruled by the whims of hydro-physics. The packages are neither self-ambulatory, or visually sentient. So does this really work?

Mechanism of action (1)

Boghog (910236) | about 2 years ago | (#39602093)

From the article: The nanoparticles are made from cyclodextrins coated with PEG that contain as cargo the anticancer compound camptothecin. The selectivity is apparently not due to the selective uptake of nanoparticles by cancer cells but rather that the interior of cancer cells are more acidic than normal cells. After cells takes up nanoparticles, the nanoparticle breakdown releasing the camptothecin. Because of the lower pH, the break down occurs faster in cancer compared to normal cells.

Nano diamonds can help too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39606827)

Nanodiamonds [hubpages.com] can also boost drug efficiency. There is a lot of potential in this regard.

SIR Spheres (1)

Warshadow (132109) | about 2 years ago | (#39609935)

A similar technology is a significant portion of the reason why my father is alive today.

They're called SIR Spheres and they can be used to carry chemotherapy drugs or a radioactive isotope.

In my fathers case, they used Yttrium-90 to treat the cancer that originated in his gall bladder and had spread into his liver. They allow for a very directed method for delivery of the chemo or radiation.

chemo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39618965)

i agree. chemo is just poison and sometimes does more hard then the cancer does. i have a family member who has cancer and was doing some research and came across a review site pertaining to the rainforest herb, graviola http://graviolacancers.com. the site claims there has been studies completed which showed positive effects of killing cancer cells. really cool stuff.

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