Nanotechnology X-ray Method Aims to Kill Cancer But Spare Healthy Tissue

Published: Monday, Mar 07, 2011

Radiation Therapy

Highlight quote

“Development of this technology has involved many scientific disciplines beyond oncology: physics, chemistry, biophysics, cellular biology, radiobiology, molecular biology, physical chemistry, and others.”

    —Laurent Levy, MD

Nanotechnology X-ray Method Aims

to Kill Cancer But Spare Healthy Tissue

An Interview With Laurent Levy, PhD

Radiation, used to treat more than half of all cancers, can sometimes be as toxic to the body as it is to the tumor. Advances in nanomedicine, however, may soon make it possible for radiation oncologists and technicians to deliver doses of x-rays that are strong enough to destroy the cancer without damaging healthy tissues.

With a new device from Nanobiotixcalled NanoXrayTM, inert nanoparticles, between 100 and 1000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair,are injected into the cancer and activated by a standard x-ray. These nanoparticles, called NBTXR3,absorb high levels of radiation. Once activated, these particles create electrons that, in turn, generate free radicals, which inflict irreversible damage to the cancerous cells and cause their destruction, while the surrounding cells receive a simple standard dose of radiation.

In early 2011, Nanobiotixplans tobegin clinical trials with NanoXray at the Gustave Roussy Institute, Paris, an international center of excellence in cancer treatment. The chief executive officer of Nanobiotix, Laurent Levy, PhD, has been working with nanotechnologies for more than a decade, developing practical applications, such as NanoXray. Levy is the president of the French Technology Platform ofNanomedicine and author of 35international publications and communications. Here, Levy discusses this new technology.

Please describe how the NanoXray works.

NanoXray is a technology in which crystallineand inert nanoparticles are designed to reach the tumor and then are activated by a standard x-ray. Once into the tumor, the nanoparticles accumulate in the cancer cell, and the x-ray activates the particles to release large amounts of energy in the cell.  The electrons produced after the nanoparticles absorb a high level of x-rays generate large quantities of free radicals.

These free radicals inflict nonspecific,irreversible damage to the cancerous cell that leads to its destruction and multiplies the effects of radiation therapy. Due to their unique design and physical properties, the nanoparticles present in the cancerous tissues absorb a strong dose of x-rays, while healthy tissues receive a standard x-ray dose.

What advantages over standard radiotherapy methods will NanoXray offer?

There are many potential benefits from this new approach to radiation therapy:First, it achieves a better local tumor control with an inert product. Secondly, it has a good safety profile demonstrated in animal models, and lastly, it delivers a higher dose to achieve total tumor control.

The product augments efficacy of radiation therapy. Radiation has been effective against cancer for more than 50 years, and nanoparticles emitted by NanoXray have been thoroughly investigated and found to cause no harm in noncancerous cells over long periods of time.

NanoXray could be combined with existing therapies, such as chemotherapy, surgery, and immunotherapy, and with molecularly targeted drugs. The device provides for “on/off” therapy. The inert nanoparticles  are only rendered active when exposed to radiation. One injection of the nanoparticles should last through a course of several radiation therapy sessions, and the device works with all standard radiotherapy equipment.

Radiation oncologists and technicians can combine NanoXray with other approaches to improve radiation therapy outcomes, such as more focused imaging techniques and technologies that improve the focus of the radiation beam.

Is this considered platform technology?

Nanobiotixhas 3 products in the pipeline. The first (NBTXR3) will enter clinical trials in early 2011. This compound will be injected directly into the tumor.

A second nanoparticle (NBTXR-IV), currently being investigated in nonclinical studies, may be injected intravenously to treat other cancers where an intravenous injection is the optimum delivery route.

The third (NBTX TOPO) is being developed for use during surgery, to prepare the cancer site for follow-up radiotherapy, such as in breast cancer surgery. Based on the existing technology and preclinical results, Nanobiotix is developing other nanomedicine programs beyond NanoXray that will sustain its pipeline and expand the uses of nanoparticles in medicine.

Which cancer patients would be more likely to benefit from the NanoXray?

Given the universal nature of the mode of action of these particles, this technology could be applied to all radiotherapy applications, that is, 50% to 60% of patients with cancer, while maintaining an optimal standard of care. The potential expands beyond this application because the mode of action of the nanoparticle product is not specific and could, in the future,open new routes for radiotherapy.

Nanobiotix plans to address liver cancer, glioblastoma, rectal cancer, prostate cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, and breast cancer with various formulations of the product.

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