Melbourne: Scientists are testing a targeted chemotherapy for lung cancer patients, that can be inhaled instead of being injected or taken orally. According to pharmaceutical scientist Nazrul Islam, from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Australia, lung cancer is one of the deadliest and most common cancers. “Drug delivery directly into the lungs via an inhaler is an efficient way to achieve local and systemic effects of medications,” Islam said.

“My research is concerned with dry powder inhalation using chitosan nanoparticles loaded with drugs that can reach the lower respiratory tract and from there diffuse into the bloodstream,” he said. Chitosan is a natural polymer that is biodegradable and biocompatible. It is low toxicity and it can be bound with therapeutic drugs and made into nanoparticles.

“As yet, no studies have conclusively shown complete biodegradation or elimination of chitosan nanoparticles in lung tissue and my research is concerned with finding the form of chitosan that is able to biodegrade in the lungs’ unique tissues,” Islam said that while many scientists were investigating the delivery of chemotherapy drugs via the lungs, none has exclusively looked at chitosan as a safe carrier for lung drug delivery.

Chitosan also has mucoadhesive properties, which means it sticks to the lining of the lung cells. It has been found to improve the absorption of therapeutic agents by opening the junctions between cells of the lung lining to allow the drug to target cancer cells.

Islam said much research suggested chitosan-based nanoparticle drug delivery could be the way of the future to deliver drugs for many different conditions besides lung cancer. “We need more research to understand the real-life degradation of chitosan, and identify degradation products and their possible toxicities in the body before we can conduct human trials,” he said.

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