Australian scientists directly target cancer cells

SYDNEY (Reuters) – An Australian biotechnology firm said on Thursday it had developed a means of delivering anti-cancer drugs directly to cancer cells, which aims to avoid the debilitating toxicity associated with chemotherapy.

The method uses nanotechnology, which involves micro-machines far smaller than a human cell.

Direct targeting of chemotherapy drugs would allow dosages thousands of times lower than that in conventional chemotherapy and be more easily tolerated by patients, said the firm.

Writing in the May issue of U.S.-based Cancer Cell magazine, the biotech firm EnGeneIC said it had developed nano-cells containing chemotherapy drugs.

Via antibodies on their surface, these nano-cells target and latch on to cancer cells. Once attached, the nano-cell is engulfed and the drug is released directly inside the cancer cell.

The firm said the bacterially derived nano-cell, called EnGeneIC delivery vehicles, had proven safe in primate trials and resulted in significant cancer regression.

It hoped to carry out human trials later in 2007 if it gained approval from Australian, U.S., European and Japanese regulatory authorities.

“For the first time there is a real possibility that this technology could lead to the use of multi-drug combinations and eventual custom-made therapies in cancer patients,” research scientist Jennifer MacDiarmid said in a statement.

“In terms of tumor therapy, most late-stage cancer patients carry tumor cells that exhibit various forms of drug resistance. Our technology may provide the first in-vivo (inside an organism) solution to this serious hurdle.”

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