Pemetrexed is the only medication that has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of pleural mesothelioma. Since it was approved in 2004, pemetrexed combined with cisplatin has become standard treatment for mesothelioma patients. Pemetrexed can improve the quality of life and prolong the survival of people suffering from asbestos-related cancer; however, it is only effective in about 40% of patients. Patients being treated with pemetrexed are also at risk for serious side effects. Pemetrexed is highly toxic; therefore, it can only be given in low doses and must be combined with cisplatin to minimize damage to healthy body tissue.
Researchers in Egypt and Japan have been working to create a new method of delivering pemetrexed to mesothelioma cancer cells that would improve the effectiveness of the drug, while reducing the side effects. The new delivery method utilizes liposomes, which are artificially prepared vesicles, to target the delivery of pemetrexed directly to mesothelioma cells. Liposomes can be filled with fluid and medication and they have membranes similar to cell membranes. Liposomes are designed to be attracted to specific cells within the body based on their membrane composition.
Researchers have been experimenting with various liposome membrane compositions to determine what liposome makeup is most effective at targeting pleural mesothelioma cells. The researchers found that fluid filled liposomes with membranes containing high concentrations of cholesterol and other lipids were most effective at targeting mesothelioma cells. Moreover, the researchers reported that they have successfully implemented this new delivery system in laboratory experiments. Liposomal pemetrexed was proven to have high cytotoxicity in in-vitro experiments. By delivering medication specifically to mesothelioma cells in the body without risking damage to other tissues, liposomal pemetrexed could increase the efficacy of the drug for patients with pleural mesothelioma.
Liposomal medications are currently being used to treat other diseases including metastatic breast cancer, hepatitis A, fungal infections, influenza, and macular degeneration.
The findings of the Japanese and Egyptian researchers’ study of liposomal pemetrexed have been published in the medical journal Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin.
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