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Posted: August 4, 2009
New EUR 2m project to develop novel drug delivery methods
(Nanowerk News) The University of Dundee is to lead a €2million European Union-funded project to develop new methods of delivering cancer treatments using MRI-guided Focused Ultrasound (MRgFUS) and drug 'nano-capsules'.
The University will collaborate with international companies InSightec Ltd and CapsuTech Ltd on the `NANOPORATION’ project, which will develop new, more efficient methods of delivering chemotherapy. These will integrate MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), focused ultrasound and potentially photonics, with the delivery and activation of nano-capsules carrying anti-cancer drugs to effectively target tumours.
'All of the established methods of cancer treatment have significant drawbacks, in that they cause side effects, require invasive procedures or do not deliver their therapeutic effect in an effective manner,' said Professor Andreas Melzer, Director of the Institute for Medical Science and Technology (IMSaT) at the University of Dundee.
'If we can combine these technologies of ultrasound, MRI and nano-capsules, as well as micro-bubbles, we will be able to release proven anti-cancer drugs in high concentration only in the area where they are required.'
'The project partners have existing technology in each of the areas we are looking at. What we need to do is combine the best of it to create a new system which can deliver this very effective model of treatment.'
The treatment envisaged by the project leaders involves drugs being injected into the body in the form of tiny capsules, which are harmless until they are activated by a concentrated focused ultrasound `blast’, using devices developed in IMSaT’s medical ultrasound laboratories as well as commercial systems. The MRI scanner will be used to track the passage of the drugs, visualise the target and monitor the delivery of the drug treatment.
With the focused ultrasound concentrated on the exact position of the tumour in the body, damage to surrounding tissue is minimised and the effective delivery of the drug to the target cells is significantly increased.
'The aim with all cancer treatment is to target the specific area of the tumour and remove it while causing as little damage to surrounding tissue as possible, and reducing the side effects of drug treatments. The methods we are developing would present a significant improvement in each of those areas, compared to current treatments.'
IMSaT is unique in the UK in possessing within the same laboratories the multi-modality - MRI, focused ultrasound and photonics - imaging and surgical capabilities to deliver this kind of research. InSightec and CapsuTech deal with different aspects of targeted drug discovery - InSightec is a manufacturer and developer of unique MR-guided Focused Ultrasound systems, and CapsuTech is a developer of a drug delivery platform based on targeted nano-capsules.
The project has been funded for four years through the European Union’s Framework 7 programme. It will create two new post-doctoral research positions and two new PhD positions at IMSaT.
Project staff from all three partners will spend time on secondment at each of the institutions, enhancing knowledge transfer over the course of the programme.
IMSaT is a joint venture of the Universities of Dundee and St Andrews bringing engineers, physicists, mathematicians and life scientists together with clinicians, health service providers, and corporate partners to research and exploit the developments that are occurring at the interface between the biomedical and physical sciences.
IMSaT is conducting world-class research and development in several areas promising valuable advances for patients, healthcare providers and life science companies alike.
CapsuTech Ltd, established in 2006, is an emerging Israeli pharmaceutical company developing a targeted delivery platform for chemotherapy drugs. CapsuTech's delivery technology improves efficacy of anti-cancer drugs and reduces their side-effects providing significant benefit to patients.
CapsuTech's delivery platform works by molecular encapsulation of anti-cancer drugs which target the drugs specifically to the tumour. The drug is then released within the tumour increasing its anti-cancer activity while reducing exposures of healthy organs to the toxic drug. CapsuTech's delivery platform does not require chemical modifications of the drug and is used to improve existing chemotherapies and to develop new drugs with an otherwise unacceptable side effects profile. CapsuTech's carriers protect the drug molecule allowing delivery of sensitive and as well as water insoluble drugs. CapsuTech's delivery platform transforms chemotherapy into modern targeted anti-cancer treatment.
InSightec’s ExAblate® 2000 is the first system to use the MR guided focused ultrasound technology that combines MRI - to visualize the body anatomy, plan the treatment and monitor treatment outcome in real time - and high intensity focused ultrasound to thermally ablate tumors inside the body non-invasively. The ExAblate system was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2004 as a treatment for symptomatic uterine fibroids and received the European CE Mark certification for pain palliation of bone metastases in June 2007.
InSightec Ltd. is a privately held company owned by Elbit Imaging, General Electric, MediTech Advisors, LLC and employees. It was founded in 1999 to develop the breakthrough MR guided Focused Ultrasound technology and transform it into the next generation operating room. Headquartered near Haifa, Israel, the company has over 160 employees and has invested more than $120 million in research, development, and clinical investigations. Its U.S. headquarters are located in Dallas, Texas.