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News & Press: University News

Virginia Tech and CytImmune Working to Reduce Chemo Side Effects

Monday, November 21, 2016  
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Virginia Tech scientists have developed a cancer drug that increases the effectiveness of a common chemotherapy treatment and dramatically reduces devastating side effects, such as hair loss, nausea, and nerve pain.
 
The new drug uses gold nanoparticles created by the biotech firm CytImmune Sciences to deliver paclitaxel directly to a tumor. Paclitaxel chemotherapy is widely used to treat breast, ovarian, lung, and colon cancer.

CytImmune reached out to Virginia Tech Chemistry Professor,  David Kingston, to create a paclitaxel derivative that is bound to a gold-based nanoparticle drug delivery platform, releasing the drug only when it’s inside a cancerous tumor.

“Paclitaxel side effects occur because the drug is given intravenously and thus is distributed throughout the body and not just to the tumor,” said Kingston. “In addition, the solvent used to allow infusion has its own toxicity. Paclitaxel could be a much more effective drug if it could be targeted directly to the tumor. This would allow each dose to be given without causing significant side effects and would thus increase the potential for cures.”
 
In other words, for now, delivery of a paclitaxel equals a shotgun with pellets. The blast of killing a tumor results in great collateral damage.
 
Kingston and his team say their delivery method is like a finely tuned rifle, using CytImmune’s gold-based nanoparticles as the delivery bullet.
 
The gold nanoparticles are decorated with both paclitaxel and tumor necrosis factor, a cell-signaling protein commonly called TNF. Gold nanoparticles loaded with TNF are known to cling around cancerous tumors. TNF binds to the tumor blood vessel cells, ultimately killing them and reducing the high pressure inside the tumor that normally prevents paclitaxel from reaching the cancer cells.
 
Now, the slowly released paclitaxel that is bound to the gold nanoparticles can reach its targeted cancer cells to kill them. The delivery method is expected to soon move toward clinical trial, said Kingston.
  
“This approach has the potential to be a game-changer in nanoparticle-based drug delivery systems,” said Kingston, “since it combines the power of drug targeting by tumor necrosis factor with the advantages of nanoparticle delivery, including the low toxicity of nanoparticle drugs to normal, healthy tissue.”
 
“By combining the tumor blood-vessel-destroying activity of TNF with the cancer-killing effect of paclitaxel onto CytImmune’s tumor-targeted ‘stealth’ gold nanoparticles, Dr. Kingston’s team and CytImmune’s team may have potentially created a new cancer drug that is far more effective and less toxic to the human body,” said Lawrence Tamarkin, chief executive officer at CytImmune.

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