The success of some drugs largely depends on their ability to get to the point where the problem is. A team of American researchers has developed a mechanism to deliver an anti-cancer drug, interleukin-2 (IL-2), directly to its target by implanting small spherical beads which release the substance.
The treatment aims to put an end to pleural mesothelioma. The mesothelioma These are tumors that affect the mesothelium, a tissue that covers most of our organs. The lung mesothelium is also called the pleura. It is a very aggressive cancer for which we do not yet have a cure, although it can be treated.
One of the difficulties that doctors face when treating this cancer is that its complete elimination is impossible. The treatments therefore, they are designed in such a way that the remnants left behind by the tumor do not spread.
The possibility of treating these remains with local immunotherapy, a procedure which relies on the administration of “relatively high” doses of immunotherapy in the pleural space, is an interesting prospect for Bryan Burt, one of the researchers involved in this development, as explained in a press release.
These implanted “factories” are actually small spherical balls a little over a millimeter in diameter made up of alginate, a type of salts derived from seaweed. These little beads gradually release the active compound, interleukin IL-2.
IL-2 is a drug used in immunotherapy, a cancer-fighting strategy that attempts to enhance the immune system to provide it with tools to fight tumors. Work on two other additional facadesfirstly by interfering with the ability of cancer cells to grow and multiply, and secondly by causing them to release chemicals that “attract” cells of the immune system.
IL-2 generates, yes, side effects, such as an increased risk of infections or breathing difficulties. According to the research team, being able to administer the drug locally can help minimize these adverse effects.
It is becoming common for cancer therapies are combined. The researchers also tested the possibility of combining this technique with checkpoint inhibitorsin this case a PD-1 protein inhibitor. Concomitant use improved IL-2 results. The tests were carried out on mice.
The results were published in an article in the magazine Clinical cancer research. He details that IL-2 treatment alone was able to eliminate tumors in more than half of treated mice, achieving full efficacy in this regard when combined with the PD-1 inhibitor.
The long journey of treatments.
For now, the experimentation only concerns these animal models, so the path that still awaits this treatment is long and uncertain. After preclinical testing is complete, treatments must undergo a minimum of three clinical trial phases in which it is evaluated that it is safe, effective and efficient in the fight against disease.
After that, he must undergo the control of the drug agencies, which are the ones who have the last word in his approval. This translates into years of testing and the possibility that the treatment will fail.
The use of these implants is based on a treatment designed for ovarian cancer and that it is also in the early stages of development, expecting to begin clinical trials this year. In both cases, teams of researchers from Texas Rice University were involved.
According to the Spanish Cancer Association, mesothelioma in our environment has an incidence of approximately 0.35 cases per 100,000 inhabitants per year and a mortality rate of five people per million. The immunotherapy For its part, it becomes one of our best weapons against cancers of different types, alone or in combination with chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
Picture | Jeff Fitlow/Rice University