Targeted cancer drugs may be the way of the future, but without more efficient drug delivery systems, there still won't be enough of the drug getting into the tumor tissue to make much of a difference, says Nature's Michelle Pflumm on the Spoonful of Medicine blog. Now, however, a group of researchers at the University of New Mexico are working on a new drug delivery vehicle, reported this week in Nature Materials, that could solve this problem. Called a protocell, the new drug vehicle is covered in lipids and coated with peptides that "target the chemical cocktail to the cancerous tissue and stimulate the drug to be expelled into tumors," Pflumm says. The researchers show that the protocells have 1,000 times greater capacity for holding cancer drugs than liposome-based delivery systems, and delivered 500 times more doxorubicin to liver cancer cells. Delivering the drug with protocells enabled more than 95 percent of the cancer cells to be killed, compared with a 70 percent kill rate for the conventional technology, Pflumm adds. The researchers also show that using a protocell results in fewer side effects, and kills less than 10 percent of healthy cells, as compared with nearly 30 percent with liposome-based delivery systems.
Apr 21, 2011