March 25, 2024 • 3 Min

Leveraging Nanoparticle Technology for Paclitaxel Delivery in Pancreatic Cancer Patients

Dr. Allyson Ocean

Current chemotherapy regimens are often limited in the amount of drugs they can safely deliver to patients without becoming toxic or causing too many adverse side effects.

A Korean company is hoping to expand the efficacy of existing cancer drugs like paclitaxel by packaging them in nanoparticles programmed to deliver the medication directly into pancreatic tumor cells.

Onselex has developed what it calls an “intelligent cancer drug” able to home in on tumors and deeply penetrate tissues for extremely precise drug delivery. The company’s lead candidate, ONX-1006, encapsulates the drug paclitaxel in a water-soluble polymer conjugated through several nanotechnology processes.

How it Works

The biocompatible polymer blocks paclitaxel from acting on normal cells while it makes its way to cancer cells via the enhanced permeability and retention (EPR) effect, which relies on abnormal molecular and fluid transport within a tumor. To meet urgent demands for nutrient and oxygen supplies, the blood vessels feeding tumors are highly permeable, allowing macromolecules to enter and become trapped inside the tumor tissue for a prolonged period of time. As the cancer cells digest the polymer (in a process called endocytosis), the encapsulated paclitaxel is exposed and released, killing the cancer cells.

The hope is that this drug delivery method will maximize the effectiveness of anti-cancer medicines while minimizing collateral damage to healthy cells and reducing treatment-related side effects, allowing patients to carry out normal daily activities during cancer treatment.

Starting Clinical Trials

Tests in animals with implanted patient tumor tissues showed anticancer effects (reduced tumor size and suppressed growth) that were significantly higher than with existing chemotherapy regimens. ONX-1006 was very well tolerated in preclinical trials and was able to be administered by IV once a week for 13 weeks with no observable adverse effects. 

The next step will be to test ONX-1006 in a clinical trial. The company has announced it will soon begin a phase I/II trial, administering weekly doses of ONX-1006 to stage IV pancreatic cancer patients for three to 12 months. It has already produced 15kg of ONX-1006, enough for 30,000 IV injections.

“Current chemotherapy limitations often hinder our ability to effectively treat pancreatic cancer without subjecting patients to intolerable side effects. By enhancing drug delivery directly to tumor sites, this approach could potentially offer patients a more tolerable and effective therapy option, says Allyson J. Ocean, M.D, Professor of Clinical Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine (New York).

“The preclinical results are promising, and I look forward to seeing how it performs in patients,” she adds.

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