Super-Small 'Stealth' Drugs Could Fight Cancer

Powders are so tiny they evade the body's immune system, experts say

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WEDNESDAY, Aug. 31, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Incredibly tiny grains of medication called "stealth nano particles" could some day be used to target tumor cells or deliver medication to specific body locations, researchers report.

Penn State researchers produced nano-sized powders of specific drugs and then encapsulated them in a polymer nanoshell. The drugs used were paclitaxel, a breast cancer drug, and dexamethasone, a steroid often used to treat eye inflammation.

The researchers tested their nanoshell in a cell culture and found that less of the drug left the target area during a 24-hour period when compared to an unencapsulated form of the drug.

They expect the polymer shell will allow drugs to travel through the bloodstream in "stealth mode," undetected by the human immune system. The shells also could be engineered to target specific cells in the body.

This type of drug deliver system would work especially well in highly vascularized areas such as tumors and the eye, because the drug could travel right up to the target area, the researchers said.

The research was to be presented Wednesday at the American Chemical Society's annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

More information

For more on this emerging science, head to the National Nanotechnology Initiative.

SOURCES: Pennylvania State University, news release, Aug. 31, 2005

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