For decades fenretinide has been an anti-cancer agent without a home. This synthetic derivative of Vitamin A has, until now, not performed too well in the body, with complications including low bioavailability and rapid drug elimination from the body, along with toxicity. Now, researchers at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center in Columbus have found what they think is the perfect use for fenretinide, and the perfect way to deliver it. If it were given locally, then it could kill cancer before it has a chance to spread throughout the body and lead to all those nasty side-effects. They developed a patch that dissolves when applied to the lining of the cheek, releasing fenretinide directly and continuously into into precancerous lesions in the mouth.
It seems to have worked well in lab animals and in simulated saliva, Medscape News reports. "These results are very encouraging. Fenretinide is a drug that scientists have studied as a cancer-preventing compound for decades, and with this mucoadhesive patch, we finally developed a way to harness its potential," Susan Mallery, who coauthored a paper in Pharmaceutical Research, said in a statement.
Local drug delivery makes sense for fenretinide because it is "highly effective in providing therapeutic drug levels directly to the site of numerous cancers," the authors wrote. The mucoadhesive patch delivery method beat out a number of other candidates. "Numerous kinds of devices, such as tablets, films, patches, disks, strips, ointments and gels, have been studied for oral transmucosal drug delivery," the authors wrote. But the dissolving patch seemed to be the best delivery device because they are "highly flexible" and "better tolerated by patients than tablet formulations." Also, "patches are more efficient in providing accurate dosing and effective localized delivery of drugs" the authors write.
Medscape reports that the patch comprises three layers--a disk soaked in fenretinide and polymers to make the drug more soluble in saliva, an adhesive ring to hold it in place, and a backing layer to make sure that the medication stays within the patch. Next, the researchers plan to test the patch as a treatment for oral epithelial dysplasia in patients at their dental clinic.