A new cancer drug which uses nanoparticles to deliver concentrated doses of chemotherapy directly to tumours is being trialled in patients for the first time.
The drug, known as BIND-014, is the first therapy using microscopic particles which can be targeted at a tumour and programmed to release drug doses at a controlled rate to be trialled in humans.
Researchers hope it will be able to fight cancer by transporting highly concentrated amounts of a chemotherapy drug known as docetaxel or Taxotere to tumours.
Nanoparticles are believed to have potential in cancer care because they could find and kill tumour cells without causing damage to surrounding tissue, meaning the risks of sideeffects would be lower.
This would enable doctors to use higher doses of drugs and potentially magnify their positive effects.
Researchers said animal studies had shown that BIND-014 can stay in the blood for a full day at much higher concentrations than normal chemotherapy drugs, and result in ten times greater concentration of the drug at the site of the tumour.
They said early results from the phase one trial on 17 patients with advanced cancers suggested it was targeting the tumour in the same way it had done in animal models.
The drug appeared to be tolerated by patients and it had an impact on some of the patients in doses 20 per cent of the normal concentration used in chemotherapy.
The phase one trial aimed at establishing how much of the drug can be safely administered rather than testing its ability to shrink tumours.
Dr Omid Farokhzad, co-founder of the firm behind the drug and senior author of the study, said: “BIND-014 demonstrates for the first time that it is possible to generate medicines with both targeted and programmable properties that can concentrate the therapeutic effect directly at the site of disease, potentially revolutionising how complex diseases such as cancer are treated.”
His colleague Prof Robert Langer said: “Previous attempts to develop targeted nanoparticles have not successfully translated into human clinical studies because of the inherent difficulty of designing and scaling up a particle capable of targeting, long-circulation via immune-response evasion, and controlled drug release.”