A novel nanotechnology drug delivery system under development to infiltrate breast cancer tumors could pave the way for treating other diseases.
Penn State College of Medicine received a $1 million grant from a state research fund set up with money from its tobacco settlement to assess the drug treatment’s commercialization potential.
The principal investigator for the nanotechnology delivery system is Mark Kester, a professor of pharmacology and director of the Penn State Center for NanoMedicine and Materials. He has been working for the past five to six years with Jim Adair of Penn State’s department of material sciences and engineering, and Keystone Nano, a nanotechnology company spun out of Penn State University led by Jeff Davidson, the founder of the Biotechnology Institute and Pennsylvania Bio industry association.
The next generation of cancer-fighting drugs specifically target cancer proteins rather than attack cancer and noncancer cells indiscriminately. Although companies have recognized the ability of small interfering RNA as a small molecule that can be directed to interfere with the production of cancer cells, the toxicity of siRNA has proved a challenge in its use. Biotechnology companies and institutions have been studying ways to use different nanotechnology particles to house the toxic molecule.
In an interview with MedCity News, Kester explained that the team has developed nontoxic “nanojackets” that use calcium phosphocillate nanoparticles, material that makes up teeth and bones, to deliver the toxic siRNA safely to the gene mutation. In this case, the one that causes overexpression of an oncogenic protein in breast cancer patients.
Getting to this stage has taken five to six years. Kester estimates it will take another one-and-a-half years to get to the point where it will have enough data to submit an IND application. During that time it will work with contract research organizations across Pennsylvania to conduct preclinical trials using the nanojackets.
Even if the company’s IND application is approved, it will take another five to eight years to get the technology to the point where it can be submitted for FDA approval.
A cursory search on Clinicaltrials.gov revealed that 10 clinical studies are using siRNA to combat diseases in clinical trials. The one that is using them to fight breast cancer uses fat cells to house the toxic molecule.
If successful, the siRNA molecule could theoretically be delivered to any protein mutation and destroy it, a development that would revolutionize not only cancer treatment but one that could lead to treating Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease and other unmet needs.