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Nanotechnology holds much promise for cancer treatment

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Nanotechnology holds much promise for the diagnosis and treatment of many diseases. One hot button topic of this research is focused on cancer because it is the second leading cause of death in the US. This research is not only ongoing at the medical school but also at the School of Dentistry. A new report published online on December 18 in the journal Science Translational Medicine has outlined a comprehensive assessment of nanomedicine-based approaches to treating cancer; it provides insight into how scientists can best position nanomedicine-based cancer treatments for FDA approval. The study was co-authored by Dean Ho, professor of oral biology and medicine at the UCLA School of Dentistry, and Edward Chow, assistant professor at the Cancer Science Institute of Singapore and the National University of Singapore. They describe the promising future of nanotechnology-enabled therapies; they also outline the regulatory and funding obstacles they could encounter as they progress through efficacy and safety studies.

“Manufacturing, safety and toxicity studies that will be accepted by the Food and Drug Administration before clinical studies are just some of the considerations that continue to be addressed by the nanomedicine field,” explained Dr. Chow. He and Dr. Ho note that, compared to other currently available therapies, nanomedicine has proven to be especially promising in fighting cancer. In preclinical trials, nanomaterials have produced safer and more effective imaging and drug delivery; they have allowed researchers to precisely target cancerous growths while sparing patients’ healthy tissue. Furthermore, nanotechnology has significantly improved the sensitivity of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), making elusive cancers easier to detect.

Dr. Ho noted, “A broad spectrum of innovative vehicles is being developed by the cancer nanomedicine community for targeted drug delivery and imaging systems. It is important to address regulatory issues, overcome manufacturing challenges and outline a strategy for implementing nanomedicine therapies, both individually and in combination, to help achieve widespread acceptance for the clinical use of cancer nanomedicine.”

Dr. Ho and his colleagues previously pioneered the development of a nanodiamond-doxorubicin (NDX) compound. In preclinical trials conducted with Dr. Chow, NDX was found to be safer and more effective than unmodified doxorubicin, which is a clinical standard for treating breast, liver, and other cancer models.

The new report describes multiple studies in which the use of nanoparticles was translated from the preclinical to the clinical stage. In several of the studies, nanotechnology-modified drugs were found to be improvements over conventional, drug-only approaches because of their ability to overcome drug resistance, which occurs when tumors cease to be affected by the drug. Among other advantages, nanoparticles can produce more effective tumor reduction.

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