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Sunday, November 3, 2013

Looking for ways to make chemotherapy safer

Gold Nanoparticles May Hold Key
To Safer Forms of Chemotherapy

Most folks know that chemotherapy drugs kill cancer cells AND healthy cells.
Because these drugs don't discriminate, cancer patients frequently experience hair loss... foggy thinking... nausea and vomiting... and other problems caused when chemo drugs zap healthy cells.
Now, new research may point to the precious metal GOLD as an effective way to scrub cancer cells from your body! It all involves continued research and improvements to treatments known as metallodrugs. Let me explain…
Continued below…

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Missing Ingredient

Drugs that contain metals have been used since the 1970s to treat some types of cancer. Most commonly this involves platinum compounds such as cisplatin and its derivatives.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), cisplatin (brand name Platinol®) is appropriate to treat various cancers including:
  • Bladder
  • Brain
  • Head and neck
  • Lung
  • Ovaries
  • Testicles
Cisplatin binds to DNA and interferes with the cell division process. The damaged DNA signals DNA repair mechanisms to swing into action, which in turn activate apoptosis—the process that causes cancer cells to self-destruct.
But because it’s not very selective, cisplatin can also stunt the growth of normal body cells too.
This causes many of the same side effects seen with other chemotherapy drugs, and in some cases can lead to kidney problems and hearing loss.
Now there’s a chance that new research has uncovered a more effective method for using metals to clobber cancer.  According to a Brooklyn College statement, Dr. Maria Contél, associate professor of chemistry, recently received a $1.4 million NIH grant to continue researching a gold-titanium combination that could be used to fight renal and prostate cancer.
The researchers previously received a $467,860 three-year grant from NIH to create an alternative cancer therapy that is less toxic than platinum-based compounds.
“It means the NIH appreciated our productivity under the first grant and warmed up to the idea of studying organometallic compounds as potential chemotherapeutics. It is perhaps changing minds at the NIH,” Dr. Contel said.
So how would the new combo
metal treatment work?
Combination therapeutics includes administering two or more drugs in order to reach different targets.
Doctors could inject a medication consisting of one metal to target cell nuclei and another to damage the cell powerhouse, the mitochondria.  The aim would be to damage cancer cell DNA and thereby activate the cell’s self-repair process, which actually results in apoptosis or “cell suicide” instead.
Dr. Contel said that for the new grant, her team produced “preliminary results on a gold/titanium treatment that inhibited certain mechanisms of prostate and kidney cancer in a way different to cisplatin while killing the cancer cells.”
In essence, the gold-titanium combination would be used to target and destroy different parts of cancer cells while leaving other cells unharmed.
But Contel warns that it’s no small feat to go from researching this type of treatment to developing a successful commercial drug.
"If you’re amazingly lucky, you may see one of your findings enter the market. Only 5 of 5,000 compounds evaluated in preclinical studies will get the approval of the FDA. The whole process to develop a new drug takes an average of 10 to 15 years," Contel said.
Other groups join the ‘gold rush’
for cancer cures!
In addition to Dr. Contel’s research into combining metal therapies, other groups are researching the use of gold nanoparticles as a promising cancer treatment.
Cytimmune Sciences of Rockville, MD recently published preliminary results of a phase 1 clinical trial of a targeted chemotherapy treatment called Aurimuneis.
Their treatment attaches a molecule of the tumor-killing agent called tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF) to gold nanoparticles.
The researchers also bind a molecule of Thiol-derivatized polyethylene glycol (PEG-THIOL) to hide the TNF nanoparticle from the immune system. The gold nanoparticles are able to travel through the patient’s  bloodstream without the gatekeepers of the immune system kicking them out. This ensures that the tumor-killing substance will be delivered to the disease site.
A Cytimmune statement said the Phase 1 clinical trial data indicate that Aurimuneis “preferentially delivered to the site of disease with minimal accumulation in healthy tissue.”
A team of University of Arizona researchers has developed another targeted therapy for delivering cancer drugs inside gold-coated liposomes.
The invention was spearheaded by Dr Marek Romanowski, an associate professor of biomedical engineering in the University of Arizona (UA) College of Engineering in Tucson.
Dr. Romanowski worked with graduate students Xenia Kachur and Sarah Leung to develop a method for gold-coated liposomes to deliver cancer drugs in controlled doses without harming healthy body cells.
Liposomes are tiny capsules used to transport materials inside cells. In chemotherapy treatment, they enclose the cancer drug in a skin made of fats already present in human cells.
This covering prevents the patient’s immune system from launching an attack before the chemo drugs are delivered to the cancer site.
Only after the liposomes enter openings in the cancer tumors do they break down, releasing the drug that kills the cancer cells.  The researchers experimented with using infrared light to control the amount of drugs that are released at one time.
All of these efforts are designed to improve cancer drug delivery and lessen the harmful effects of chemotherapy on healthy tissue.
Of course, you might want to consider alternative cancer treatments that don’t subject any part of your body to harsh synthetic drugs. But it is good to know that scientists continue their quest for less invasive and abrasive treatment regiments!

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