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Nanotechnology Trends in Drug Delivery

Nanotechnology Trends in Drug Delivery

March 6, 2017

Nanotechnology has the potential to make a significant impact on healthcare and in the field of drug delivery. Currently, nanotechnology is used in nanocrystals, nanoparticles, liposomes, micelles, nanotubes, and other segments. Nanotherapeutics can provide targeted drug delivery, improved solubility, extended half-life of drugs, and can improve immunogenicity which has resulted in the potential to revolutionize the treatment of many and deadly diseases that affect all ages of all populations. Nanotechnology can also provide new solutions for treating cancer. Pediatric populations specifically could benefit from nanotherapeutics.

Regulations in the US and EU incentivize the development of pediatric medicines through pediatric patent exclusivity. While there are incentives in place to develop pediatric products, these products are not widely available and most conventional oral drugs may not be suitable for the pediatric population, due largely in part to patient compliance and dosing amounts. Oral tablets and capsules may be hard for children and young adolescents to swallow. Oral liquid therapeutics can be bitter and lower patient compliance in pediatrics. Pediatric patents tend to favor sweeter flavors thus palatability can be an important factor for pediatric patient compliance. Furthermore, dosing amounts can vary drastically depending on the patient’s age and weight. Accuracy in preparing low dose, small volume therapeutics is difficult to achieve across all age groups of pediatrics from infant to teen due to the status of their continuing development. Therapeutic drugs must be age-appropriate while maintaining safety, efficacy, accessibility, and cost-effectiveness.

Cancer, specifically, is a major contributor to disease related deaths among patients one to 19 years old. Over the past four decades, the incidence of childhood cancer has been slowly increasing. More than 12,000 children are diagnosed annually with various types of malignancies in the US. The two major forms of leukemia; acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML), account for about one-third of the malignancies diagnosed in children. Despite the marked successes in ALL and AML treatment, new approaches are needed to reduce or to avoid off target toxicities, associated with chemotherapy and their long-term residual effects.

Recently, nanotechnology has been employed to enhance cancer therapies by improving the bioavailability and therapeutic efficacy of anti-cancer agents. These advancements in nanotechnology have been useful in developing therapeutics for adults, but could be tailored to address the unmet needs for pediatric cancer treatments. Selective delivery of anti-cancer agents to cancer cells without harming the healthy cells is a major goal of these current efforts. In order to achieve these goals, nanoparticles are employed as drug carriers, specifically to target malignant cells and tumors. Nanoparticles as drug delivery agents have several advantages, including targeted delivery and effective penetration of the tumor microenvironment.

A variety of nanoparticles, including dendrimers, gold particles, liposomes, micelles, and polymers have been described to improve the bioavailability or the therapeutic efficacy of currently used anti-cancer agents but these nanodelivery systems have yet to be thoroughly evaluated in pediatric patients.

One of the most popular and extensively investigated nanotechnologies to treat cancer is liposomes. Abraxane® is one of a handful of liposomal formulations under clinical investigation for anti-tumoral therapeutics in children. Marketed by Celgene, Abraxane is an albumin-stabilized nanoparticle formulation of paclitaxel (nab-paclitaxel) approved for adult refractory breast cancer and metastatic pancreatic cancer. Abraxane was recently studied in preclinical pediatric solid tumor models including rhabdomyosarcoma, osteosarcoma, and neuroblastoma [1]. Nab-paclitaxel showed significant antitumor activity against all pediatric solid tumors associated with an enhanced drug intratumoral delivery. Furthermore, testing of nab-paclitaxel in solid tumor pediatric patients is under development. Celgene is currently recruiting participants (ages six months to 24 years old) to find a safe dose and early clinical activity of Abraxane in Phase I/II clinical trials. Innovative applications aim to encapsulate approved drugs in nanocarriers in pediatric patients and nanotechnology has become a promising tool for optimizing the therapies of pediatric diseases.

The field of nanotechnology has many applications across drug delivery and can offer opportunities for the development of new therapeutics or the improvement of existing drugs. TCI has the knowledge and expertise to provide clients with assistance and guidance tailored to their drug delivery research goals. Please contact TCI for further discussion.

Makaravine Duong
Research Analyst
Drug Delivery/Pharmaceuticals
Email: mduong@technology-catalysts.com
Phone: (703) 531-0276


1. Sosnik, A. and Caraboso, A.M. (2014). Nanomedicines in the Future of Pediatric Therapy. Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews, 73, 140-161.