Team develops safer method to deliver toxic chemo

Cancer docs have long appreciated the power of the chemotherapy cisplatin against tumors, but they've been understandably reluctant to subject patients to high doses, afraid that the toxic platinum in the drug would also damage kidneys. But an international research team led by scientists at Harvard and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston has devised a new delivery method designed to boost its effectiveness against tumors while shielding kidneys.

The researchers started with an understanding that the kidneys can't absorb material larger than five nanometers. Then they developed a polymer that would bind to cisplatin, creating "balls" of the drug and strings of polymer that were 100 nanometers in diameter, forcing it to bypass the kidneys and other organs as they traveled to tumors. Once the medicinal "ball" was absorbed by the tumor, the acidity inside the tumor dissolved the material, releasing the payload right where it's needed, says Shiladitya Sengupta, a Harvard assistant professor of medicine and health sciences and technology who led the project.

"It showed absolutely minimal toxicity to the kidney," Sengupta tells Nanotechnology Now. Members of the research team came from the University of Notre Dame, the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the National Chemical Laboratory in Pune, India, and the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute in New Delhi.

- here's the story from Nanotechnology Now