The “Failure” of Nanomedicine in Treating Cancer – Efficiency of the Nanoparticles Reviewed

Nanoparticles are one of the most promising technologies in the fight against cancer. However, less than 1% of nanoparticles reach tumors, reducing their effectiveness.

CANADA – Since Richard Feynman anticipated the future in his classes at Caltech, nothing would be the same in the field of physics. The advent of nanotechnology has allowed us to develop sensors that detect diseases at an early stage. Another of the great promises of these investigations were tiny drugs in the form of nanoparticles, had been recognized as the future in the fight against cancer.

But all is not all that glitters is gold

A study published today in the journal Nature Reviews Materials considerably lowers the expectations of this promising technology. And the review of scientists from the University of Toronto (Canada) and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School (United States) on research published in the last decade clearly shows that the hype created around the nanoparticles and cancer was over-inflated.

According to their findings, only 0.7% of the nanoparticles reached solid tumors, which results in very negative consequences for the application of this type of nanotechnology in medicine and in particular in the fight against cancer.

Nanoparticles were described as “small robots” reaching the target malignant cells, in order to transport the medicine and antitumor using such technology with greater efficacy and fewer side effects. Several works on nanomedicine pointed that could be applied in the fight against breast cancer and colon cancer or against bacterial infections. What few expected, however, it is the low efficiency in the arrival of nanoparticles to solid tumors.

The researchers noted that “the nanoparticles are designed to alter the biodistribution and pharmacokinetics of small molecules in patients and allow the arrival of higher doses of the drug to the diseased tissue, with the aim of increasing the therapeutic index, reduce systemic toxicity and / or provide better image signals.”

However, the study warns about the lack of efficiency despite major economic investments (more than one billion dollars in the US in the past decade). Therefore the same scientists speak of the reputation of “hype” surrounding nanomedicine, which has failed to transform the care of cancer patients in the last fifteen years.

Only two therapies based on nanoparticles, such as Abraxane and Doxil, have been clinically approved.  However, these treatments have not demonstrated significant improvements in therapeutic index. The median reduced efficiency of nanotechnology is less than 1% in the case of solid tumors which is behind in not achieving the desired clinical objectives. Hence, the deemed failure of this promising technology.

The nanoparticles, which are tiny pellets formed by organic or inorganic materials such as silver and gold, fail to treat cancer because our body eliminates them before they can be effective on the tumors.

The review in not only on the “failure” of this technology, but also proposes a strategy for the next three decades to improve the results of such investigations.

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