Researchers show nano-capsule therapy is useful in treating pancreatic cancer

June 25, 2013

By AKIKO OKAZAKI/ Staff Writer

A Japanese research team has dramatically increased the long-term survivability of mice with pancreatic cancer using a new technique that delivers anticancer drugs in tiny capsules directly to tumors.

The team, led by Kazunori Kataoka, a biological engineering professor at the University of Tokyo, administered intravenous drips containing the capsules--which are 30 nanometers in diameter and contain the cancer drugs--to mice genetically modified to develop cancer of the pancreas. One nanometer is one-billionth of a meter.

The potency of anticancer drugs often weakens before reaching the targeted cancer cells. Many also cause severe side effects: attacking other organs and cells.

The 100-day survival rate for mice that were administered the treatment rose to 80 percent, compared to less than 20 percent in mice given conventional cancer drugs. One hundred days in mice is the equivalent of 10 years in human terms.

The five-year survival rate in humans suffering pancreatic cancer, which often goes undetected in its early stages, is usually between 10 percent and 20 percent. The capsule therapy also significantly suppressed the ability of the cancer to metastasize to other organs in the body and restricted ascites, or the buildup of excessive fluid in the abdominal cavity. In addition, tumor marker levels decreased in the mice administered the treatment, according to the researchers.

Steve Jobs, co-founder and the late CEO of Apple Inc., died of pancreas cancer. The new capsule therapy is currently undergoing clinical trials. The Japanese research team will publish its findings in this week's issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).

By AKIKO OKAZAKI/ Staff Writer
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Steve Jobs, co-founder and former CEO of Apple Inc., at a news conference in San Francisco in March 2011. He died of pancreas cancer in October 2011. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Steve Jobs, co-founder and former CEO of Apple Inc., at a news conference in San Francisco in March 2011. He died of pancreas cancer in October 2011. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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  • Steve Jobs, co-founder and former CEO of Apple Inc., at a news conference in San Francisco in March 2011. He died of pancreas cancer in October 2011. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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