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By Mahavir Chougule and Chalet Tan

Mahavir ChouguleCOPHS News_FINAL.inddConventional drug therapy, such as chemotherapy, has been well recognized and has achieved modest success in the clinical treatment of cancer. However, because of the lack of specific targeting strategy, these therapies are usually accompanied by severe side effects that compromise the quality of patients’ lives. Nanotechnology-based therapies are able to achieve targeted delivery of therapeutic agents to tumors and have demonstrated great promise in revolutionizing cancer medicine by improving efficacy while reducing the adverse effects.

The idea of using nanotechnology in medicine can be traced back to 1959 with Richard Feynman, the founding father of nanotechnology. Nowadays, this idea is no longer a fantasy but a therapeutic reality. The Food and Drug Administration has approved several nano-sized medicines, such as Doxil and Abrexane, demonstrating great progress in the treatment of cancer. Abrexane has been reported to prolong the life of advanced stage cancer patients for about two more months. Still, newer and more effective therapies are urgently needed to fight against cancer.

Despite recent progress in nanotechnologies, the bench-to-bedside translations of nanotechnology-based therapies are very poor. The AAPS PharmSciTech theme Translational Application of Nano Delivery Systems: Emerging Cancer Therapy addresses the barriers for the translation. A general review on nano delivery systems was presented by Babu et al. Various delivery systems along with their applications in cancer therapy were covered in this theme, including delivery systems for low aqueous soluble drugs (Narvekar et al), polymeric micelles (Zhang et al), nanoemulsions (Ganta et al), mesoporous silica nanoparticles (Roggers et al), gold nanoparticles (Singhana et al), and targeted nanocarriers (Duskey et al). The design of nanoparticles was reviewed from difference aspects: Carboni et al showed how the design of nanoparticles affects the movement of nanoparticles in the blood vessels. Paliwal et al discussed challenges in scale-up production of nanomedicine. Khatri et al investigated the complexation, transfection efficiency, and toxicity of siRNA lipoplexes. Some of the latest progress in the development of the nanoparticles was also discussed in this issue: Sadhukha et al examined the delivery of carboplatin in poly (D,L-lactide-co-glycolide) (PLGA) nanoparticles; Patel et al evaluated 5-fluorouracil-loaded solid nanoparticles consisting of glyceryl monostearate. Dani et al explored iron oxide nanoparticles for the delivery of doxorubicin coated by thermosensitive copolymer poly-(NIPAM-stat-AAm)-b-PEI. Grover et al revealed significant improvement of cytotoxicity of docetaxel-loaded glutathione-coated PEG-PLGA nanoparticles against glioma cells.

Nanotechnology has revolutionized the therapeutic strategy for cancer treatment to specifically target the cancer-related cells compared to traditionally sacrificing normal healthy cells while attacking cancer cells. The nanotechnology-based therapy, like a magic-bullet, is now armed with a trigger and tracking system, which can precisely produce anticancer effect without collateral damage. With these advancements in treatment, patients don’t have to suffer from the severe side effects, which is one of the major reasons behind patient incompliance with current treatment plans. The realization of the full potential of nanotechnology-based therapies will be achieved by multidisciplinary approaches addressing formulation, characterization, biocompatibility, preclinical, and clinical evaluations.

Mahavir Chougule, Ph.D., M. Pharm., B. Pharm., is an associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences at University of Hawaii at Hilo College of Pharmacy. His research is focused on nanocarrier based delivery of drugs and siRNA for pulmonary disorders and cancer.
Chalet Tan, Ph.D., B. Pharm., is an associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences at Mercer University College of Pharmacy. Her research is focused on the targeted delivery of microRNAs and small-molecule drugs via biodegradable nanocarriers for the treatment of cancer.