Cancer Nanomedicine: Dr Edward Chow and team highlight the clinical translation of novel drug delivery and imaging agents

stmec1Cancer is projected to account for over 13 million deaths worldwide by 2030, and is the second leading cause of death in the United States. For years, researchers have been developing promising new approaches to improve the safety and efficacy of both cancer therapy and imaging. These include the use of nanotechnology, which has enabled tumors to be targeted while sparing healthy tissue. In addition, nanotechnology has significantly improved the sensitivity of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) so that hard to find cancers can be more easily detected. Assistant Professor Edward Chow, of the Cancer Science Institute of Singapore and Department of Pharmacology at the National University of Singapore, has teamed up with Professor Dean Ho of the University of California, Los Angeles School of Dentistry and Department of Bioengineering to provide among the most comprehensive assessments to date of promising cancer nanomedicine platforms that have been validated preclinically, and the clinical trials that have been concluded, or are ongoing, pertaining to the treatment and imaging of cancer using nanotechnology.

The review article highlighting important advancements towards the clinical translation of cancer nanomedicine is featured as the cover article on December 18 in the peer-reviewed journal, Science Translational Medicine.

Nanotechnology has been shown to improve several aspects of cancer treatment. For example, nanoparticles delivering cancer drugs can be used to shrink tumors that no longer respond to conventional forms of chemotherapy. Both Dr. Chow and Dr Ho’s teams have previously partnered to demonstrate marked improvements in the safety and efficacy of treating breast, liver, and other cancer models using a nanodiamond-modified doxorubicin cancer drug (NDX). This recently published Review article aims to outline a pathway that nanotechnology-enabled therapies like NDX will likely encounter as they progress towards validation in clinical studies.

“A broad spectrum of innovative vehicles are being developed by the cancer nanomedicine community for targeted, stimulus-triggered, and other ways of improving the specificity of drug delivery and imaging,” said co-corresponding author Dean Ho, Ph.D., Professor of Oral Biology and Medicine, and Co-Director of the Jane and Jerry Weintraub Center for Reconstructive Biotechnology at the UCLA School of Dentistry.

In addition, to discussing why specific types of nanoparticles have been conducive towards transitioning from preclinical to clinical studies, the article also highlights importance of rationally-designing combination therapies, where multiple drugs are delivered together to improve treatment outcomes. The article goes on to describe how various algorithm or computation-based methods can be paired with nanomedicine to potentially enable major improvements to the way that patients are treated.

Regulatory issues, outlining a strategy for combinatorial nanomedicine, as well as manufacturing challenges that must be addressed prior to the acceptance and widespread clinical use of cancer nanomedicine are also discussed in the article.

“Manufacturing, safety and toxicity studies, as well as properly designing studies that will be accepted by the Food and Drug Administration prior to the start of clinical studies are just some of the considerations that continue to be addressed by the nanomedicine field,” said co-corresponding author Dr. Edward Chow.

Dr. Chow and Dr. Ho added that while nanomedicine regulation is still in its early stages, the FDA approvals of existing nanotechnology-modified drugs, such as Abraxane, provide a strong foundation for the continued acceleration of new cancer nanomedicine therapies and imaging solutions in the fight against cancer.

Work in both authors’ groups has been funded by the National Cancer Institute, National Science Foundation, Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, V Foundation for Cancer Research, Society for Laboratory Automation Endowed Fellowship, Beckman Coulter Life Sciences, National Medical Research Council of Singapore, and Singapore Ministry of Education Academic Research Fund Tier 1 Grant.