Pharma Strategy Blog

Commentary on Pharma & Biotech Oncology / Hematology New Product Development

Patients undergoing treatment for cancer with chemotherapy may often not receive the optimal drug combination or dosing for a number of reasons.  These include debilitating side effects, high interstitial fluid pressure, leaky vessels or the development of tumour resistance. 

In recent years, researchers have started to look at novel ways of making treatment more effective.  On such way is to change the formulation, develop more targeted agents that specifically inhibit the abnormal protein or better sequencing of available therapies.  Some of these have had mixed success as the stories of Gleevec, Tarceva, Iressa and Avastin have shown, albeit in some, but not all patients.

Lung cancerImage via WikipediaLung cancer, or more specifically, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), which affects 80% of lung cases, has a very low response to chemotherapy with only 20% typically experiencing tumour shrinkage and an survival rate on average of 10-16%.  New approaches are desperately needed in this disease as well as basic research underpining greater tumour specificity.  At present, standard chemotherapies used in NSCLC target not only the lung cancer cells but also normal cells, thereby increasing the burden of drug toxicity and reducing the chances of overall success.

An interesting idea that has just been investigated by Taiwanese researchers in NSCLC is the use of a novel peptide to overcome the therapeutic effectiveness of drug delivery:

"We isolated a novel peptide ligand from a phage-displayed peptide
library that bound to non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell lines.
The targeting phage bound to several NSCLC cell lines but not to normal

This interesting and specific approach was tested in mice and led to a 5-7 fold increase in the drug accumulation inside the carcinoma.  This should lead to greater chance of apoptosis (cell death) of the cancer cells and thus improved tumour shrinkage.  The authors concluded that:

"The current study suggests that this tumor-specific peptide may be used
to create chemotherapies specifically targeting tumor cells in the
treatment of NSCLC and to design targeted gene transfer vectors or it
may be used one in the diagnosis of this malignancy."

Although the idea is an early one, we may soon see the approach used with existing chemotherapies inclinical trials in the near future.  While there is no guarantee that the mice results will translate to humans, it is certainly an idea worth trying.


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9 Responses to “New simple strategies for enhancing cancer chemotherapy treatment”

  1. Nigel Grainger

    As part of the study did they look at whether the peptides would delay or prevent the development of secondary tumours?

  2. Sally Church

    Nigel, that’s a good question.
    The simple answer is no they didn’t. That’s something they would have to do in human clinical trials and determine if adding the peptide improved or delayed secondary tumours. In lung cancer this would be very important to determine given the prevalence of secondary cancers such as brain metastases.

  3. Sally Church

    That is deceptively simple but tricky, Babs.
    One potential other idea I have come across is a foodceutical called Davanat from Pro Pharmaceuticals, which is currently being tested with various chemotherapies in clinical trials. It’s a complex carbohydrate that seems to enhance the effect of the drug by delivering more chemo to the tumour.
    You can find out more here:

  4. Linda Mattacks

    Hi Sally
    Would you be prepared/ able to go into your “simple yet tricky” response to Barbara’s comment?

  5. Sally Church

    That’s a good point. I’ll write a blog post on it tomorrow explaining how Davanat works and what the timeline for getting it to market is.

  6. x-ray fluorescence

    Chemotherapy is an area of treatment that is constantly changing and developing. These tests include new anticancer drugs, new combination’s of drugs, and “old” combination’s of drugs on untested types of cancer, as well as various combination treatments involving drugs with surgery and/or radiation.

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