Chemo inhaler may help beat back mesotheliomaEver since 1993, when Japanese researchers suggested the inhalation of cisplatin as a treatment for lung tumors, oncologists have been investigating this method of applying chemotherapies to malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM).
Now, after a number of false starts and tentative studies, researchers believe they may have found an inhalation chemotherapy regimen that effectively treats MPM. Appropriately enough, the method - which was developed at Scotland's Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences - is almost identical the the original Japanese version.
A history of meds delivered with nebulizers
Inhalation chemotherapy itself is nothing new. The first such application of chemo occurred in 1968, when scientists tried treating bronchial cancer with inhaled radioactive particles. Since then, this method of treatment has been honed and applied to many different respiratory malignancies.
Recently, there has been renewed interest in using chemo-based inhalers to treat MPM. After the 1993 study determined that inhalation of cisplatin had an effect on mesothelioma tumors in mice, researchers tried it again in 1999 with dogs, in a proof-of-concept study that appeared in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.
However, the latest investigation is one of the first to prove that an inhaled agent (in this case, the common MPM drug cisplatin) may be a safer and more effective way to deliver chemo than injecting it.
Inhaled meds go right to the tumor site
Drs. Chris Carter, Alex Mullen and Valerie Ferro decided to test an inhalable form of chemo because of the escalating rates of pulmonary cancers in Scotland. In 2009 alone, nearly 4,150 patients died of respiratory malignancies, including mesothelioma.
For that reason, the trio developed an aerosolized form of cisplatin that can be delivered with a nebulizer.
The group explained that inhaling the medication would deliver it in a targeted way, potentially making it safer and circumventing the serious renal side effects that can occur when cisplatin is injected.
"By delivering cisplatin, one of the most widely used drugs for lung cancer, in a vaporized form, we would be able to get it to the cancerous cells and avoid the damage to healthy cells which can be hugely debilitating to patients," Carter said. "It would make the treatment far less onerous for them and we hope it would help them to live longer."
Other, more invasive forms of direct chemo application exist, but these generally involve cutting open a patient's chest and manually spraying the agent onto the pleura.
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