Chemotherapy timing is key to success, research shows

New nanoparticles make it easier to time two chemotherapy drugs for maximum benefit.

Nanoparticles that stagger delivery of two drugs knock out aggressive tumors, new research shows. In studies with mice, the research team showed that this one-two punch, which relies on a nanoparticle that carries two drugs and releases them at different times, dramatically shrinks lung and breast tumors.

MIT researchers have devised a novel cancer treatment that destroys tumor cells by first disarming their defenses, then hitting them with a lethal dose of DNA damage.

In studies with mice, the research team showed that this one-two punch, which relies on a nanoparticle that carries two drugs and releases them at different times, dramatically shrinks lung and breast tumors.

Doctors routinely give cancer patients two or more different chemotherapy drugs in hopes that a multipronged attack will be more successful than a single drug. While many studies have identified drugs that work well together, a 2012 paper from Yaffe's lab was the first to show that the timing of drug administration can dramatically influence the outcome.

In that study, Yaffe and former MIT postdoc Michael Lee found they could weaken cancer cells by administering the drug erlotinib, which shuts down one of the pathways that promote uncontrolled tumor growth. These pretreated tumor cells were much more susceptible to treatment with a DNA-damaging drug called doxorubicin than cells given the two drugs simultaneously. [emphasis mine]

The nanoparticle contains the cancer drug doxorubicin (green spheres) in its core. Erlotinib is embedded in the red outer shell. Attached to the surface are chains of polyethylene glycol (PEG), in yellow.

Tags: chemotherapy, drug timing

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Replies to This Discussion

I went back to my chemo list to see if there were drugs by those names used. I found nothing similar, but that doesn't mean anything. I see my chemo doctor on May 16. She takes seriously all my questions and gives me her best answer. She also directs me to literature to help me understand. So, we'll have a quick chat. Thanks for the lead. 

I'd appreciate you sharing any relevant information. I'd like to be informed about such things if I'm diagnosed. Thanks.

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