Scientists at Rutgers University have developed a targeted drug delivery system that they believe could make ovarian cancer more treatable and increase survival rates for the most deadly gynecological cancer in the United States.
Tamara Minko, professor in the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, and Lorna Rodriguez, professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, say because there is not a good screening method for ovarian cancer, most women with the disease are not diagnosed until after it has metastasized to other organs and surgery and chemotherapy are not as effective.
“Once the ovarian cancer becomes drug resistant we cannot cure it,” says Rodriguez a gynecologic oncologist who provides treatment to ovarian cancer patients and is director of the precision medicine initiative at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. “Circumventing the development of drug resistance is a reasonable approach and very much needed.”
The main reason for advanced-stage ovarian cancer, they say, is an out of control protein CD44, which enables cancerous tumors to proliferate and become resistant to conventional drug treatments. The result: a five-year survival rate for patients with advanced-stage ovarian cancer that is only 30 percent.
In a new study published in Clinical Cancer Research, Minko and Rodriguez provide results of animal research in which the cancer is attacked at the genetic level by using small, inhibiting RNA molecules that directly target and decrease the excess CD44 protein in cancer cells while simultaneously treating patients with the anti-cancer drug paclitaxel. This allows cells within the cancerous tumors to be successfully treated even at an advanced stage.
Animal studies indicate that delivering chemotherapy through inhalation kills more cancer cells that traditional intravenous chemotherapy. The next step: clinical trials in humans.
Lung cancer kills about 1.5 million men and women around the world – more than the number of people who die from breast, colon, pancreatic and prostate cancers combined.
This happens, in part, because many patients with lung cancer are not diagnosed until they are in the advanced or metastatic stage of the disease and treatment options are limited mainly to surgery and conventional intravenous chemotherapy.
A new drug delivery system, developed by researchers at Rutgers University, which allows inhalation of chemotherapeutic drugs that more accurately targets specific cancer cells in the lungs, could change this.
In animal studies performed at Rutgers and Oregon State University, it appears that this inhalation therapy reduces systemic damage done to healthy lung cells and other organs while significantly improving the treatment of lung tumors.
“The development of additional more effective and safe approaches to treatment of this disease is vitally important,” says Tamara Minko, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmaceutics at Rutgers and a member of the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, who has been leading a team of researchers on the project since 2006. “Up until now, limited clinical efficiency and significant toxicity have represented two critical barriers restricting progress in the therapy of advanced lung cancer.”