Frederick National Lab leads nanotech boom with cancer drug delivery

Researchers at the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research have developed a way to enhance delivery of a cancer drug using nanoparticles, enabling more of the toxic therapy to reach the tumor without killing healthy cells.

Employing nanotech concepts that have become more prominent in recent years, Scott McNeil, director of the Nanotechnology Characterization Lab at Frederick, used tiny gold molecules to deliver the powerful (but highly toxic) protein tumor necrosis factor-alpha, or TNF-alpha, safely in up to three times the amount possible before. The modified drug passed Phase I and is entering Phase II, according to a Newswise report.

Since 2005, the Nanotechnology Characterization Lab has developed almost 300 different particles for future use as cancer-drug delivery vehicles. Six of them are now in clinical trials, including the gold-TNF-alpha combination.

The lab's success so far with TNF-alpha marks a trend in cancer research that gives old treatments with previously less-than-ideal outcomes new life. By delivering therapies using highly targeted and safely guarded nanotechnology, researchers have been able to use drugs that may have failed in earlier clinical trials, according to the report. This is precisely what McNeil and his team have been trying to do, along with the National Cancer Institute. 

"We help investigators get from proof of concept, where they are generating a few tens of milligrams of material and get into clinical trials, where they are going to need kilograms of materials," McNeil told Newswise. "That translational research, as we call it, is absolutely germane to getting into clinical trials."

- here's the report from Newswise