Chemotherapy is often preferred for fighting cancer, but its side effects can be considerable.
A new technique may reduce these in future: nanoparticle-encapsulated substances could kill off tumor cells selectively. This will be easier on patients.
Hair loss, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, loss of appetite, loss of eye lashes and eye brows, susceptibility to infection – the list of possible side effects from chemotherapy is lengthy. Many cancer patients suffer from the intense effects that accompany the treatment. High dosages of cytostatic agents are injected subcutaneously or administered intravenously to halt the growth of tumors and also to destroy resistant cells. The more frequently that cells divide, the more effective the active agent is. This applies especially to malignant tumors. However, healthy mucosal tissue and hair cells divide very rapidly as well. They are therefore attacked as well.
Scientists have searched long and hard for a therapy that selectively kills off the tumor cells without damaging healthy tissue. Using a new methodology, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research (IAP) in Potsdam, Germany, hope to break the vicious circle by utilizing nanoparticles as vehicles for the anti-cancer agents. Since the particles resemble cells on account of their structure, they are suited to steering pharmaceutical substances to the tumor selectively, docking there, and efficiently eliminating the malignant cells.