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BYU tests new cancer research

PROVO, Utah — Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy often endure painful side effects caused by the powerful drugs as they course through their entire bodies, damaging healthy tissue and tumors alike.

BYU researchers reported in the December issue of the prestigious oncology journal "Cancer Research" that they have successfully tested a new method in laboratory animals that would concentrate the impact of cancer drugs on specific cancerous tissues, thus sparing the rest of the body from harm.

Their method combines two key innovations: packaging a drug in tiny molecules of water-soluble plastic so that the drug would not interact while passing through a person's bloodstream, then using ultrasound to release the drug from its package at the specific part of the body affected by the cancer.

William G. Pitt, professor of chemical engineering at BYU and principal investigator on the project, said he is pleased that the tests produced significant reductions of tumor size in laboratory animals.

"This method shows potential in offering controlled drug delivery, which could reduce the negative side effects that arise during chemotherapy and could localize the treatment at the tumor site," said Dr. Pitt, cautioning that human application is still several years away.

Richard H. Wheeler, director of clinical research for the Huntsman Cancer Institute, called the research interesting and innovative.

"The use of focused ultrasound to release the packaged drug maximally within tumor tissue holds promise for the cancer patient of increasing the chance for tumor response while reducing side effects," he said.

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