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First trial in humans of 'minicells': A completely new way of delivering anti-cancer drugs
Date:11/8/2012

A completely new way of delivering anti-cancer drugs to tumours, using 'minicells' derived from bacteria, has been tested for the first time in humans and found to be safe, well-tolerated and even induced stable disease in patients with advanced, incurable cancers with no treatment options remaining.

The research, which is presented at the 24th EORTC-NCI-AACR [1] Symposium on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics in Dublin, Ireland, today, suggests that it could be possible to use this new technology for targeted delivery of other drugs to a range of cancers, and to personalise treatment by adjusting the drugs to suit the genetic make-up of each patient's tumour [2].

Dr Himanshu Brahmbhatt and Dr Jennifer MacDiarmid, the founders of EnGeneIC, a biotech company in Sydney, Australia, designed the minicells to deliver anti-cancer drugs directly to tumour cells, thereby reducing the toxic side-effects that are seen when chemotherapy is given to patients systemically. The minicells are created from small bubbles of cell membrane pinched off the surface of mutant bacteria. The minicells can then be loaded with chemicals, such as anti-cancer drugs, and coated with antibodies that home in on receptors on the surface of tumour cells. This means that the minicells target the cancer cells, while avoiding normal cells that do not have the same receptors. The cancer cell recognises the bacteria from which the minicell has been derived and activates its standard defence by swallowing the minicell, which exposes the cell nucleus to whatever cancer-killing drug the minicell is carrying.

Each minicell is about 200 times smaller in diameter than a human hair (it measures 400 nanometres (nM) -- a nM being one billionth of a metre). "Nonetheless, this is much larger than synthetic particles in development for drug delivery," said Associate Professor Benjamin Solomon (MBBS, PhD, FRACP), the principal investigator of the trial and a consultant medical
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Contact: Emma Mason
wordmason@mac.com
ECCO-the European CanCer Organisation
Source:Eurekalert

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