The first phase of clinical trials for a possible new treatment for cancer is in the works for a Yale University-created immunotherapy drug delivery system that can carry multiple drugs inside a miniscule particle.

Developed in the lab of associate professor Tarek Fahmy, the nanogel delivery system, can be employed for multiple combinations of drugs for different cancers and even some immune disorders. The system is intended to deliver multiple drugs with different chemical properties.

A single particle can carry hundreds of drug molecules that concentrate in the tumor, increasing the efficacy of the drug combination while decreasing its toxicity.

The initial use of this delivery system will be a drug known as IMM-01. A multi-pronged treatment for metastatic cancer, it contains two agents: Interleukin-2 (IL-2) and an inhibitor of tissue growth factor (TGF beta).

IL-2 amplifies the body’s immune system, while the TGF-beta inhibitor dampens the cancer cells' ability to hide from the immune system. Because their size and makeup differ greatly, the two agents would normally be incompatible.

Fahmy, however, designed a unique biodegradable gel that can contain both drugs and then release them in the tumor.

He describes the delivery system as a kind of “rational” therapy, in that it fuses established biological and clinical findings to the emerging field of nanotechnology.

“It creates a new solution that could potentially deal a significant blow to cancer and even autoimmune disease in future applications,"

said Fahmy, who teaches biomedical engineering and immunobiology.

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