First there was delivery of your Amazon orders by drone. Next, there’ll be drone delivery of your targeted mesothelioma therapies.
Except instead of delivering to the doorstep of your home, these drones will deliver to the doorstep of the mesothelioma tumors inside you.
Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston earlier this month demonstrated the viability of the concept.
They delivered cancer-fighting drugs, such as Interleukin-10, to the precise cellular addresses where their effect would be greatest.
The researchers — writing about this in the Oct. 21 online issue of Nano Letters — didn’t test this drone delivery system in humans. That’s for another day.
What they did was test it in lab cultures at their research facility’s workbenches.
Even so, they were very pleased by what this might one day mean for treating you and others in your situation.
Mesothelioma Treatment via Nanoparticles
The drones tested by the researchers for this delivery concept are actually engineered, electrically charged polymers that behave in programmed ways to accomplish specific tasks.
They’re tiny, incredibly tiny. Just to give you an idea of how tiny, these polymers are measured not in millimeters but in nanometers. A nanometer is a million times smaller than a millimeter.
We’re talking “Incredible Voyage” size here, only smaller.
Nanometer measurement is why this is officially known as nanoparticle technology. The Brigham and Women’s researchers call their polymer “thermosponge nanoparticles.”
The concept is they inject into you a flotilla of these polymers which then carry the therapeutic agent to the tumor site and nowhere else.
Interestingly, the polymers wouldn’t be preloaded with targeted mesothelioma therapeutics. They would pick those up from within your body.
That means the medications would be injected or infused prior to or immediately after injecting the polymers.
The other way this might work is the polymers would first roam about and harvest anticancer proteins produced by your immune system but patrolling distant parts of your body.
The polymers would then bring the collected anticancer proteins to your mesothelioma tumor for a massive, concentrated assault.
A Problem With Targeted Mesothelioma Therapy
Scientists have been trying to accomplish this sort of thing for a while now — that’s the whole idea behind targeted mesothelioma therapy.
The problem has been that the targeting agents need to be gift-wrapped in solvent in order to force mesothelioma cells to open up their doors.
Unfortunately, the solvent can deactivate the therapy agent.
The thermosponge nanoparticles on the other hand would be able to deliver the therapy agent without use of solvents.
“Our research demonstrates that the thermosponges enable the solvent-free loading of proteins,” said Omid Farokhzad, M.D., who heads the hospital’s Laboratory of Nanomedicine and Biomaterials.
He explained that the thermosponge nanoparticles are composed of biocompatible and biodegradable polymers. They feature a central, spherical core and, on the outside, a poloxamer polymer.
The core is made of poly(D,L-lactide), which can be electrically charged. The outer poloxamer polymer functions as the sponge to catch and carry the therapeutic agent or anticancer protein.
The researchers noted that their thermosponge nanoparticles kept working for days and appeared capable of carrying a variety of agents and proteins.
They also noted that the carried proteins lost none of their potency after being either picked up or delivered by the thermosponge nanoparticles.
The researchers said that loading of Interleukin-10 onto the thermosponges resulted in the protein actually working better and lasting longer than normally would be the case.
It was significant that Interleukin-10 was among the proteins chosen for testing of the polymer delivery system.
The reason is that, as an immunomodulatory cytokine, Interleukin-10 plays an important role in fighting mesothelioma and other cancers.
The hospital’s research project was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Additional funding came from the National Institutes of Health and the David Koch-Prostate Cancer Foundation Award in Nanotherapeutics.