Development of drug-delivery technology makes for interesting bedfellows
An unlikely union is on the cusp of revolutionizing the way chemotherapy drugs are delivered to lung cancer patients.
A research team featuring pharmacy professor Raimar Loebenberg, oncology professor Wilson Roa and Warren Finlay, a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, have collaborated on a way to manufacture an inhalable powder that could effectively disperse chemotherapy drugs into a patient’s lungs.
The team was able to encapsulate chemotherapy drugs into nanoparticles that could be inhaled by patients with lung cancer. To keep the nanoparticles apart, they first freeze the particles in tiny ice carrier particles before removing the ice to make a powder. The challenge then was to produce a powder that would not only make it into a patient’s lungs, but also disperse the drugs effectively.
“The idea was to add in effervescent material inside the carrier particles that produces carbon dioxide gas, so that when the particle lands in the lungs, it releases carbon dioxide gas and the nanoparticles are released over a much bigger region,” said Finlay. “They are dispersed beyond the landing site, which prevents the released nanoparticles from getting all stuck together.”
In tests using animal models, results showed that the inhalable dry powder was more effective than using a solution and IV injection of drug-bound nanoparticles.
“There is a pretty clear advantage to using this interesting way of delivering these nanoparticles,” said Finlay. “What we really want to do now is to go into human trials.”
Finlay says a project of this nature would not happen without collaboration across the three disciplines involved. “Each of us brings a different knowledge set to the project, and the synergy that results by joining our different expertise allowed us to boldly go where no one has gone before.”