Scientists have developed a nanotechnology approach that potentially could eliminate the problems of side effects and drug resistance in the treatment of cancer. Under traditional chemotherapy, cancer cells, like bacteria, can develop resistance to drug therapy, leading to a relapse of the disease.

Huixin He, associate professor of nanoscale chemistry at Rutgers University, Newark, Tamara Minko, professor at the Rutgers Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy and investigators from Merck & Co. and Carl Zeiss SMT, a global nanotechnology firm have designed nanomaterials that allow for the delivery of both a chemical (doxorubicin) to destroy cancer cells and a genetic drug to prevent drug resistance.

When administered to drug-resistant ovarian cancer cells, the treatment was more than 130 times lethal than when doxorubicin was administrated alone. “The drug can only be released when it is inside the cancer cells. This controlled internal release mechanism can dramatically eliminate side effects associated with anticancer drugs to normal tissues,” he said.

The study has been reported in the December 21, 2009, issue of the journal Small.