More than 70,000 cancer diagnoses are given each year to patients between 15 and 39 years old. Many patients are women still in their reproductive years. The life-saving chemotherapy these women need is the same chemotherapy that kills off any hopes of natural reproduction. Harvesting and freezing eggs or ovarian tissue is one means of protecting fertility, but what if a simple and extremely tiny change in the delivery of chemotherapy drugs could protect the ovary and thus, protect fertility?
Nanoparticles are too small for the eye to see, but they are big enough to carry chemotherapy drugs. According to researchers, arsenic-based chemotherapy drugs can aggressively attack cancer cells without damaging ovaries in the process.
To deliver the drugs to the right place researchers developed nanobins. Nanobins look like liposomes or fat cells, but hidden inside the fat cells are more than 500,000 molecules of the chemotherapy drug arsenic trioxide. The nanobins are small enough to pass through tiny holes in blood vessels; the same tiny holes cancer cells use to tap into the blood supply. Cancerous tissues are more acidic than healthy tissues essentially telling the nanobins exactly where to explode their fury of anti-cancer medication.
The drug used in the development and study of nanobins was arsenic trioxide. This drug is currently effective against blood cancers like leukemia. For the sake of the study researchers chose to test the nanobin delivery system on lymphoma because a large number of lymphoma cases are diagnosed in women of reproductive age.
No young woman goes into her reproductive years wondering how she will protect her fertility during cancer treatment, but the reality is that women who’ve yet to start a family face cancer every year. Fighting cancer while protecting the ovaries from damage is a huge step for fertility preservation.
Source: Barrett, Meera R. Raja, Jennifer K. Jozefik, Lidia Spaho, Haimei Chen, Marcel B. Bally, Andrew P. Mazar, Michael J. Avram, Jane N. Winter, Leo I. Gordon, Lonnie D. Shea, Thomas V. O’Halloran, Teresa K. Woodruff. Nano-Encapsulation of Arsenic Trioxide Enhances Efficacy against Murine Lymphoma Model while Minimizing Its Impact on Ovarian Reserve In Vitro and In Vivo. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0058491.