A promising new mesothelioma treatment targeting only malignant cells showed favorable results in a preliminary study on laboratory mice, report researchers at the University of Vermont Medical College.
If the results can be replicated in humans, this could be a significant step to a breakthrough therapy for this currently incurable asbestos-caused cancer.
“Effective treatment of malignant mesothelioma remains an unmet clinical need,” the study researchers state in their paper published this week in the online journal BMC-Cancer.
With grant funding from the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation and the National Cancer Institute, the researchers were able to prove that their innovative technique was successful at both shrinking mesothelioma tumors and decreasing the spread of tumor cells. Equally exciting – these favorable results were achieved without weight loss or fatigue in the study subjects.
Because mesothelioma tends to be diagnosed 20 to 50 years after asbestos exposure, it is rarely caught early enough for low level treatment to be effective. Chemotherapy at higher levels offers limited results and causes disagreeable side effects.
To try to stop cancer cells from spreading, chemotherapy shoots first and asks questions later. It causes collateral damage by killing a lot of good cells along with the bad ones. When cells in the digestive tract, hair follicles and bone marrow are affected, gastrointestinal issues, hair loss and a weakened immune system get added to the burden of cancer.
The new treatment tested in the study uses stealth mode to release the chemo medication into only the tumor cells by hiding it inside a silica-based antibody coating that recognizes the tumor cells by a type of protein they produce. The antibodies attach to the tumor cells and then fire their hidden ammo – a chemo drug called doxorubicin – right into them scoring a direct hit every time.
Successful targeting of tumor cells enabled the researchers to reduce the amount of doxorubicin the mice received by fourfold resulting in less toxicity and side effects. Most important, tumors shrank and cancer cell production slowed.
We will monitor this important new development and report to you here on any further studies.
 BMC Cancer 2013, 13:400, September 11, 2013