Bowel cancer survival rates could be improved if chemotherapy drugs were delivered via tiny nanoparticles directly to tumours instead of being taken orally.
That's the conclusion of an Indian and Australian study that used nanoparticles to target bowel cancer, the third-most common cancer in the world and the second-deadliest.
In animal experiments researchers found that nanoparticles containing the chemotherapy drug Capecitabine (CAP) attach themselves directly to the diseased cells, bypassing healthy cells and reducing toxic side effects as well as the size and number of tumours.
The Australian researcher involved in the project, UniSA Professor Sanjay Garg, says CAP is the first-line chemotherapy drug for bowel cancer.
"A high dose is necessary to maintain effective concentration, resulting in some harsh side effects when delivered conventionally, including severe hand and foot pain, dermatitis, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and loss of taste," Prof Garg said in a statement on Monday.
The side effects are exacerbated because the drug affects both healthy and diseased cells.
A viable alternative to conventional therapy was targeted drug delivery using nanoparticles as smart carriers so that the drug can be delivered specifically to the tumour.
"This allows a smaller and less toxic dose," Prof Garg said.
CAP delivered via nanoparticles reduced both the size and number of cancerous bowel tumours, resulting in fewer abnormal cells, improved red and white blood cell counts and less damage to other organs.
The targeted delivery system has a dual function: binding the receptors as well as releasing the drug to the tumour micro-environment.
"We believe the platform technology developed can be applied to other cancers and chemotherapeutic drugs," Prof Garg said.
Approximately two million people are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year with half not expected to survive, according to the World Health Organisation.
The findings are published in the journal Carbohydrate Polymers.
Australian Associated Press