Lung Cancer is one of the leading causes of death globally. Despite this, there has been limited progress in improving the survival rates of patients with lung cancer. This is due to the delayed diagnosis of lung cancer which is often asymptomatic until the tumor has advanced to a metastatic stage.
Once cancer has progressed, it can be difficult to surgical excise the tumors due to the presence of multiple tumors whose excision may not only be difficult due to their anatomic locations but may also be futile as even a single missed tumor can metastasize by itself. In addition to this, lung tumors often create a defense mechanism that can ward off drugs and immune cells from attacking them. Lung tumors have a poor prognosis as surgery is often not being done due to their vague early symptoms, multiple number, and anatomical locations.
A Novel Surgical Approach Targeting Lung Tumors
Researchers from Lund University have recently developed an innovative approach to the surgical excision of lung tumors. They have combined tiny nanoparticles with a new surgical technique that explicitly target lung tumors.
Lung cancer patients receive high doses of chemotherapy drugs that are widely disseminated through their systemic circulation resulting in grueling side effects on major organs. Although researchers are continuously developing newer modalities of therapy targeted for lung cancer, their efficacy is limited due to the difficulty in delivering these agents to the tumors themselves
Researchers aimed to surpass the tumor’s defense mechanism by creating a unique surgical approach that releases small nanoparticles only in the lung circulation. Taking advantage of the different features of blood vessels that supply healthy lung tissue and lung tumors, researchers directed the nanoparticles to specifically enter the circulation of the dense lung tumors.
Using animal models with lung tumors and intact immune systems, the researchers examined the efficacy of their novel technique combining surgery with nanoparticles. The researchers were able to visualize the lung tumor cells directly as they were infused with nanoparticles delivered to them directly via their unique bloodstream. They have named this technique ‘organ restricted vascular delivery’ (ORVD), which is the first time such an approach has successfully done in animal models.
In addition to their explicit targeting of tumor cells, they introduced an additional precautionary step that makes the nanoparticles release their therapeutic agents only when they recognize a specific signal within the tumor region. This extra step prevents the risk of damaging the healthy lung tissue. Their double level of specificity permits the use of high doses of drugs due to the significantly lower risk of adverse effects on healthy tissues.
“Direct administration of these nanoparticles into the blood vessels of the lungs allowed us to restrict the accumulation of these particles only in the lungs which eventually led to successful and selective tumor targeting,” explains Deniz Bölükbas, post-doctoral fellow and leading author of the article.
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