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A Better Way to Deliver Cancer Drugs

Researchers are testing a cancer-fighting film that could be applied directly to a tumor site//.

The chitosan-based film, which can be made into any size and shape, is capable of delivering multiple anticancer agents to a tumor site as it dissolves over several weeks. This effectively allows doctors to bypass administering conventional chemotherapy treatment.

A paper-thin, biodegradable implant is proving an effective way to attack cancer cells without punishing the body with chemotherapy. The implant is a clear, flexible film that can be designed in any shape or size. A key ingredient in the film is chitosan, which is derived from a natural material extracted from algae and the exoskeletons of shellfish.

Researchers at the University of Toronto have developed a way to dissolve a high concentration of various cancer-fighting drugs within the film, which is then applied directly to a site where a tumor has been removed. The drugs, which are loaded into polylactide nanoparticles, are control-released over several weeks as the implant breaks down in the body. "The formulation appears to be quite flexible," says Micheline Piquette-Miller, an assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the university and codeveloper of the drug-delivery system. "We can incorporate very diverse types of chemicals into it, and that's what a lot of other systems have had trouble with."

Piquette-Miller and her team are currently focusing their research on ovarian cancer, which has a high relapse rate and typically requires several rounds of chemotherapy following tumor removal.

Cancer drugs administered orally or intravenously often don't reach the right organ or region of the body in strong enough doses. By applying a high concentration of cancer-fighting agents directly to a tumor site, the drugs are more likely to kill the target cells.

"We're also working on an injectable formulation," says Piquette-Miller, ex
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