Nanoparticles attack head/neck cancer

Using tumor-targeted nanoparticles to deliver high doses of anticancer agents directly to head and neck tumors increases survival while triggering fewer side effects, according to a study in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (June 20, 2011).

Researchers at the University of Michigan created a spherical polymeric nanoparticle known as a dendrimer to deliver the drug methotrexate to head and neck tumors in mice.

To target the nanoparticle to those tumors, the investigators embellished the nanoparticle's surface with folic acid because many tumors produce excessive amounts of a folic acid receptor on their surfaces.

Brent Ward, DDS, MD, and his colleagues tested their dendrimer-based formulation in three different groups of mice. The control group had tumors grown from human head and neck tumors that did not produce the folic acid receptor. The two experimental groups had tumors grown from human head and neck tumors that expressed moderate and high levels of the folic acid receptor.

Mice receiving the equivalent of three times the normally lethal dose of methotrexate experienced none of the weight loss normally associated with methotrexate therapy, the researchers noted. In addition, dendrimer-delivered therapy produced marked gains in therapeutic response even in the mice whose tumors produced only moderate levels of folic acid receptor.

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