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A new drug trial done by biopharmaceutical company Bind Biosciences is making waves in the cancer field, says Technology Review's Susan Young. The company is testing an "experimental nanotechnology-based technique" to deliver cancer drugs to patients, Young says. Although the trial was only meant to test the safety of the technology, it appears to be effective in treating cancer. "Even at a lower-than-usual dose, multiple lung metastases shrank or even disappeared after one patient received only two-hour-long intravenous infusions of an experimental cancer drug," Young says. "Another patient saw her cervical tumor reduce by nearly 60 percent after six months of treatment."

Getting nanoparticles to deliver cancer drugs has been challenging, Young says. For one thing, the behavior of a drug can change when it's combined with a nanoparticle, making the structure of the particle almost as important as the drug itself.

Bind's trials are ongoing, and researchers are waiting to see what the company's technology can do in advanced human trials, but the early results look promising, Young says. "The 'programmable' design used by Bind may be key to bringing more nanoparticle-targeted drugs to trial," she adds. "The company's methods could be applied to any existing drugs or compounds, including those that may have been shelved by pharmaceutical companies because they proved too toxic to the whole body."

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