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Scientists from Slovenia develop new cancer treatment

posted 22 Sept 2011, 08:41 by Mpelembe   [ updated 22 Sept 2011, 08:44 ]

International team of scientists working for a Slovenian research institute is developing new method to combat cancer using new drug delivery system based on magnetized nanoparticles.

LJUBLJANA, SLOVENIA ( SEPTEMBER 22, 2011) REUTERS - Slovenian researchers are working on the development of a breakthrough method to combat cancer. The method employs a new drug delivery system based on magnetized nanoparticles and was shown to enhance the effectiveness of existing chemotherapy treatments.

The new drug delivery method was developed by an international team of scientists led by a Russian scientist Olga Vasiljeva and Boris Turk of the Jozef Stefan Institute in Slovenia and involves using clusters of magnetized nanoparticles which are encapsulated inside liposomes along with a cancer treatment drug. The magnetized liposomes can then be directed to target the cancerous tumour cells by an external magnet.

By targeting only the cancer-ridden area this system reduces side effects the therapy might have on other parts of the body and at the same time reduces the amount of drugs used for successful treatment. Due to their contrast properties, the magnetized liposomes also allow non-invasive monitoring of drug delivery using standard magnetic resonance imaging.

"First and foremost value of this research is that we have proved that it is possible to develop a system which enables tracking and controlled delivery of medication. Second is that with this system we can diminish toxicity of medications, third value is that with this system we can increase bioaccessability of medications or potential medications which would otherwise be unusable. Fourth value is that this system is also usable in treatment of other localised diseases, not only carcinoma. It can also be used for other scientific research as it enables us to monitor processes which we could not otherwise monitor", Head of the department of biochemistry and molecular and structural biology at Ljubljana's Josef Stefan institute said.

The new method has been tested on mice and the findings were reported in the scientific journal Nature Nanotechnology. The researchers used magnetized liposomes to deliver a protease inhibitor to an animal's mammary tumour, which then reduced the its size by a larger degree compared with the systemic delivery of the same drug.

"We had to prove that the system works with medications which are already in use. We used dexorubicin, a well known chemo therapy drug What we managed to achieve is the following: when we applied the drug using a standard systemic method the tumour size diminished to 40 percent of its original size ten days after the application of the drug. When we used our system (of drug administration) it (tumour) diminished to 10 percent of its original size after 10 days", he said.

Turk said the new system had huge potential for use in treatment of other diseases as well because it could enable precise delivery of any active substance.

"The main goal of this method is to improve the effectiveness of medications which have already been approved for use in people. Now we have to prove that the system is not toxic for use in animals and then that it works also in people."

Further research would require some 20-30 million euros in funding, which would cover the costs of development and subsequent clinical trials on humans. If proven successful, the method might come into widespread use in five to six years.