This month, Molecular Pharmaceutics reported promising findings from the Nemours Center for Childhood Cancer Research and the Materials Science and Engineering Department at the University of Delaware, about the potential for nanotechnology to deliver chemotherapeutic agents in a way that attacks cancer cells without harming healthy cells. To date, nanoparticle-based drug delivery approaches have been poorly developed for the treatment of childhood leukemia, which comprises 30% of childhood cancers. In the Nemours study, encapsulated dexamethasone ("dex") delivered to pre-clinical models with leukemia significantly improved quality of life and survival compared to the control receiving the unencapsulated drug.
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is the most common form of pediatric leukemia. Although 5-year survival rates for ALL approach 90% with available chemotherapy treatments, the deleterious side effects of the drugs, including secondary cancers and fertility, cognitive, hearing, and developmental problems, present a significant concern for survivors and their families. Dex is one of the most commonly used drugs to treat childhood leukemia and long-term systemic exposure to dex causes considerable side effects.