Nanocarrier drugs for pancreatic cancer being produced in China

Multilayer hybrid nanocarrier offers a new treatment option for pancreatic cancer

At the Symposium on the Application of Genetic Testing in Individualised Diagnosis and Treatment of Tumours, recently held in Tianjin, China, the research team led by Professor Hao Jihui of the Pancreas Oncology Department of Tianjin Medical University Cancer Hospital announced a major breakthrough in the field of nanocarrier drugs for pancreatic cancer.

The new multilayer hybrid nanocarrier designed by the research team achieves layered carrying of three active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), filling the technology gap for the application of a nanocarrier as part of a multi-drug treatment for pancreatic cancer. The nanocarrier also greatly improves tumour targeting and the effectiveness of the drug while reducing its toxicity. The research findings were recently published in Advanced Functional Materials.

Professor Hao explained that nanotechnology-based drugs were gaining more and more attention in terms of a treatment option for malignant cancers. However, there were no nanocarrier drugs for the treatment of pancreatic cancer. For this reason the research team at Tianjin Medical University Cancer Hospital co-operated with the research team at the Chinese Academy of Sciences National Center for Nanoscience and Technology led by Nie Guangjun, to jointly design and synthesise a new multilayer phospholipids–polymer hybrid nanocarrier and, by doing so, achieved layered carrying of three APIs (5-fluorouracil, oxaliplatin and irinotecan).

Professor Hao said: 'When it comes to clinical work, many patients suffering from pancreatic cancer are faced with the reality that there is no medicine or treatment to choose from.' The FOLFIRINOX plan, put forward in New England Journal of Medicine in 2011, increased the median survival time for patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer to 11.1 months, something that has never previously been achieved with this type of cancer.'

'However, when the plan was moved into clinical trials, many patients had serious adverse reactions, such as severe febrile neutropenia and diarrhoea. In particular, approximately one third of the patients who accepted this plan had severe fatigue, which proved to be a substantial detriment to their quality of life: a set of negatives that prevented doctors from actually applying it in clinical practice,' he added. To optimise the FOLFIRINOX plan, Professor Hao asked his research team to design and synthesise a new multi-layer phospholipids–polymer hybrid nanocarrier, which, in turn, achieved the layered carrying of three APIs. This nanocarrier significantly increases the half-life of the medicine circulating in the patient's body.

At the same time, passive targeting is concentrated on the tumour and identifies the integrin receptor, which is highly expressed in pancreatic cancer cells, improving tumour targeting compared with the control group. More importantly, the improved tumour targeting significantly reduces the damage to normal tissues.

'Multi-drug therapy is a basic principle in tumour treatment. Nanodrugs in the past have only improved the medicine, whereas this new design broadens the application of nanotechnology in multi-drug chemotherapy,' said Hao.

The innovative nanocarrier technology reduced the toxicity and increased the effects of this therapy, solving a major impediment in the treatment of pancreatic cancer. The next step would be to further study the scaled synthesis and biological effect of this nanodrug and move into the clinic at an early date and significantly improve the quality of life for a wider group of patients suffering from pancreatic cancer.

Companies