October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. It is fitting that new research announced this month using nanomaterial technology for cancer drug delivery may represent a ray of hope in the battle against multi-drug resistant ("MDR") breast cancer.

MDR cancer cells exhibit over-express epidermal growth factor receptor ("EGFR").  Researchers at Northeastern University were able to develop a polymer blend nanoparticle that targets the EGFR in MDR cells.  The nanoparticle acts as a nanocarrier for drugs used in treatment of the MDR cells.  The research study used a combination of traditional and experimental drugs (paclitaxel/lonidamine) to target an orthotopic model of MDR human breast cancer in mice in order to assess the efficacy and safety of this nanoparticle treatment. The research tracked the toxicity of the treatment by assessing weight-loss, plasma laboratory data for liver enzymes, white blood cell count and platelets in the mice over twenty-eight days post-treatment.  Efficacy was assessed by tracking tumor volume in the mice over twenty-eight days post-treatment, and tumor weight, density, morphology and immunohistochemistry of the post-treatment  excised tumors.

The combination nanoparticles were the only treatment group that decreased tumor volume and tumor density. The EGFR-targeted combination nanoparticles were considerably less toxic than traditional drug solution treatments. 

The use of this drug carrier system for EGFR-targeted, combination paclitaxel/lonidamine therapy is an advance in personalized medicine, and could be used as a platform for the treatment of other MDR cancer treatments.  The researchers indicate that the treatment must undergo clinical trials before FDA approval can be obtained.  This process may take several years, but the researchers estimate the treatment could be available for clinical use in about five years.