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Nontoxic Hydrogel Improves Delivery of Breast Cancer Drug

Researchers develop injectable gel as carrier for trastuzumab (December 4)

The treatment of breast cancer usually involves surgery followed by a course of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or hormone therapy designed to reduce the risk of recurrence. In recent years, however, targeted drugs have increasingly become an effective option to fight the disease.

One such drug is trastuzumab (Herceptin, Genentech), a monoclonal antibody that can slow or halt tumor growth in patients with human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-positive breast cancer — a particularly fast-growing form of the disease that affects one in four patients. Typically, trastuzumab is administered at a clinic through an intravenous drip, a process that can take up to 90 minutes. A major drawback of this method of delivery is that without frequent follow-up doses, trastuzumab loses its effectiveness. Therefore, patients are commonly required to visit the clinic on a weekly basis.

To improve the delivery of trastuzumab, researchers in Singapore have developed a hydrogel — consisting of 96% water and a uniquely designed polymer — as a carrier for the drug in the body. The hydrogel is nontoxic and biodegradable, and can be injected under the skin without causing an inflammatory response.

The researchers conducted studies in mice, which confirmed that their trastuzumab-loaded hydrogel delivers the drug efficiently before it degrades within 6 weeks. They found that 4 weeks after injection, tumors in the mice had decreased in size by as much as 77%. The researchers say that their next goal will be to conduct clinical trials in humans in conjunction with industrial partners.

Source: Medical Xpress; December 4, 2013.

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