Saturday, September 10, 2011

Researchers rethink fenretinide for prevention of oral cancer

In continuation of my update on fenretinide...

For more than two decades, researchers have studied and used fenretinide, a synthetic vitamin A derivative. Fenretinide's capacity to induce both terminal differentiation and cell death yielded highly promising results with cultured human cancer cells. Likewise, studies in lung, breast skin, prostate and bladder animal cancer models re-enforced fenretinide's cancer-preventing effects at the in vivo level. However, when it came to prevention of oral cancer,  fenretinide efficacy wasn't what scientists expected. After multiple studies with lackluster results, oral cancer researchers moved away from fentretinide to look elsewhere for an answer. 

Now researchers lead by Dr. Susan Mallery started rethinking about the failure and  wanted to find  a way to circumvent issues with poor systemic uptake by delivering the compound directly to the lesion. 

Mallery found the answer in partnering with two University of Michigan pharmaceutical chemists (Steven Schwendeman and Kashappa Goud Desai) to develop a first of its kind patch that sticks to the inside of the mouth, and delivers a continuous therapeutic dose of fenretinide directly to the precancerous lesion. The patch consists of three layers: a disk saturated with fenretinide and polymers that make the lipid soluble fenretinide better adsorbed in a water-rich environment, a secondary adhesive ring to hold the disk in place, and a final backing layer that ensures the medication stays inside the area of the patch.

The research team has just completed a pharmacokinetic study in rabbits. Subsequent plans include an initial Phase zero study in humans, followed by a clinical trial to evaluate efficacy in patients with precancerous oral lesions. A companion formulation designed to prevent emergence of pre-cancerous cells within the entire mouth may also be used in the fenretinide patch clinical trial. 

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