New “smart drugs” target only cancer cells


Chemotherapy drugs

New research from Dr. John Lewis, a medical researcher and associate professor in the Department of Oncology and Fellow with the National Institute for Nanotechnology at the University of Alberta, shows that nanotechnology is assisting greatly in the quest for new and effective cancer treatment drugs.


Chemotherapy, widely used in cancer treatments today, travels throughout the body and kills any cells that divide, including healthy cells.  This is why cancer patients often experience immune system problems, loss of hair, nausea, and skin issues.  But, according to Lewis, these new “smart” drugs are able to determine which cells in the body are cancer cells and which aren’t, and then they selectively kill only cancer cells, not normal cells.  These “smart” drugs even find cancer cells that have spread to other areas of the body.  This targeted approach to treatment means that side effects would decrease dramatically.  And, these drugs may be used for different types of cancer.


These new drugs have only been tested to date in animal laboratory models, so they are not available yet for physicians to use with patients.   In the meantime, Lewis and his research team continue to work on figuring out why cancer cells spread to other areas of the body.  They have discovered that cells that move from the original cancer site have different and numerous genes that differentiate them from the cells that stay put.  This research has allowed them to develop a drug that uses a “tumor glue” to keep cancer cells from spreading from the main site.  Also in development are new blood tests to assist with predicting whether prostate and other cancers will spread. 


Many thanks to the hard work of Dr. Lewis and his team of researchers.



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