Further, University of Wisconsin spinoff Cellectar Biosciences
is developing engineered molecules that are able to bind to more
than sixty types of cancer, and deliver a bit of radiation to kill the
targeted cancer cells. The molecules resemble the natural structure of cell membranes. Once injected, they spread throughout
the body. Healthy cells typically break down and eliminate these
agents, but cancer cells lack that ability, so they are engulfed by
these engineered molecules.
“Our phospholipid ether molecule has shown strong in vivo
targeting in over sixty different types of human and rodent cancer
models, regardless of anatomic location,” said Dr. Jamey Weichert,
associate professor of radiology at the University of Wisconsin
School of Medicine and Public Health. “Most chemo agents enter
many cells and rely on, sometimes, small differences in overexpres-sion of specific pathways in cancer cells for their safety margin.
Antibody targeted therapies typically only target a relatively few
cancer types. Unlike most cytotoxic chemotherapy agents, these
agents can target not only cancer cells but also cancer stem cells,
which we now know play very important roles in cancer resis-
tance, metastasis, and relapse.”
It’s interesting to note that these methods of cancer treatment
continue to blur the lines between pharmaceuticals and medical
devices. Their only “device” components are either the manu-
factured particles themselves or the engineering methods that
contribute to the design of the cancer-targeting molecules. It seems
that these “combination products” are fast becoming a trend in
best practices for cancer treatment. Application of targeting parti-
cles into pharmaceuticals could become common practice, as they
increase the efficiency of the drug, thereby requiring less of a dose
for effective treatment.
Most remarkable about these technologies is that they provide
an alternative to chemotherapy, or present improved methods of
delivery to increase its effectiveness. They represent a particular
improvement in the treatment of brain cancer, which has thus far
been a challenge for traditional chemotherapy.
“We can target both primary and metastatic brain tumors very
effectively. Most people may not realize that most cancer patients
succumb to their metastatic disease and not their primary cancers.
Most chemotherapy agents are not effective against brain metas-tases due to their inability to cross the blood brain barrier. Our
agents may offer a benefit in this regard,” said Weichert.
There unfortunately won’t be any single technological solution
for cancer, simply because there is no single cause of cancer. But
the diversity of these solutions are edging healthcare professionals
closer to a set of best practices, and tipping the scales in favor of
remission for all.