The World of Nano in Medicine

As our team participates this week in some fascinating roundtable workshops at the 7th annual NanoGagliato conference in Italy — a wonderfully intimate gathering of thought leaders and creative thinkers committed to working together to solve crucial problems in health care — we’re struck by the immense value in multidisciplinary collaboration. Surrounded by thought leaders in the areas of nanomedicine, ethics, entrepreneurship and design, it’s amazing how many fresh, innovative ideas get generated in our working group discussions.

Revealing the world at nanoscale — as you can see by looking at Rita Serda’s scanning electron micrograph artwork on the pages of this site — is at once beautiful and powerful. From the discussions we’re having here at NanoGagliato, it’s clear that some interesting applications in nanomedicine are rapidly reaching commercialization —with enormous potential near-term health care benefits. We’d like to share some examples of what we believe are compelling nanomedicine applications to combat cancer:

Celgene/Abraxis BioScience has reached validation at scale for site-specific tumor drug delivery (with a form of paclitaxel albumin protein-bound particles). Antineoplastic chemotherapy drug Taxol, originally derived from the bark of the Pacific yew tree, has seen improved efficacy in some of the most common cancers — including lung, ovarian and breast cancers as well as Kaposi’s sarcoma — with a material reduction in dose limiting side effects such as lower blood counts, hair loss, temporary myalgias and peripheral neuropathy.

In the particle sciences arena, we’re encouraged to see nano iron materials that concentrate in solid tumors and can subsequently activate a tumor lytic response by a physical mode of action, targeting external NanoXray to selectively increase radiotherapy activity at the cellular level. MagForce and Nanobiotix are advancing this strategy to the clinic for enhanced delivery of targeted energy in the therapy of glioblastoma, sarcoma, head, neck and liver tumors. (Nanobiotix utilizes inorganic crystalline hafnium oxide, which readily enters tumor cells and interacts strongly with local radiotherapy while sparing the surrounding normal tissues, allowing the dose intensification needed for tumor treatment.  MagForce utilizes iron oxide nanoparticles coated with aminosilane, locally injected and locally retained, which allows thermal cell killing by repeat alternating high-frequency magnetic fields.)

Building on the work of scientists at MIT to unravel the mechanism of action (MOA) for gold particle transit into tumor cells, CytImmune and AstraZeneca are collaborating on promising product profiles. CytImmune has developed a nanomedicine platform that uses the tumor’s unique biology to gain entrance to the tumor and break down its defenses by disrupting the tumor’s blood vessel architecture, enabling other cancer therapies to reach and kill the cancer cells.

Additionally, the Houston Methodist Research Institute is doing some very interesting interdisciplinary work at the interface of engineering, math and biology where Mauro Ferrari’s team has created oncophysics-based multi-stage vectors (MSVs) to overcome tumor resistance mechanisms; they have design features that continuously bring active agents to the tumor microenvironment by creating a drug reservoir with first order delivery effects.  The strategy, based in part on silicon particles, has now reached readiness to move from bench to bedside and human translational clinical research.

We look forward to actively participating in the brainstorming sessions in the coming days at NanoGagliato. We have big, hard problems to solve, but with the right multidisciplinary collaboration, we expect we’ll make surprising progress. We’ll be sure to share insights here after the conference has concluded.

Ciao for now!