Chemotherapy Could Become Personalized, Get Cheaper in Near Future

Chemotherapy is often a necessity for patients with many sorts of cancers, but its somewhat imprecise results can be (while effective at killing cancer) the source of many dangerous and life-altering side effects for those who receive it.

The way chemotherapy works is that in essence, it kills rapidly dividing cells, a heading under which cancer falls. But the fact that chemotherapy is not a very targeted therapy means that patients experience hair loss, immunosuppression and varied other side effects of the strong drugs while being treated. However, our whole approach to chemotherapy could soon be altered due to research out of Florida State University.

Steven Lenhert is a Florida State biology assistant professor and the principal investigator on research surrounding chemotherapy and nanotechnology published in the medical Biomaterials recently. Lenhart explained the aim of the research, which he compares to the scaling down of computers in recent decades:

“In looking at the first phase of the drug-discovery process, it struck me how, in this age of extreme miniaturization, we are still using rooms full of robots and equipment to test drug compounds… It reminded me of the early days of computers where you needed huge, room-spanning pieces of hardware to do the most mundane tasks. I said, ‘There has to be a better way.’”

Lenhart’s miniaturization process could reduce the prohibitive costs of high throughput screening- the process currently used by pharmaceutical companies to discover new drugs- making it a thousand times cheaper. Lenhart explains:

“Right now, cancer patients receive chemotherapy treatments that are based on the accumulated knowledge of what has worked best for people with similar cancers. This is the case because hospitals don’t have the technology to test thousands of different chemotherapy mixtures on the tumor cells of an individual patient. This technology could give them access to that capability, making the treatments truly personalized and much more effective.”

Lenhart and his team estimate that the advancements proposed in the research could take a scant two years to develop, leading to new chemotherapy processes in the pharmaceutical market.