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Topically Applied Breast Cancer Therapy

Posted Apr 06 2010 7:16am
Nearly all breast cancer therapy drugs are delivered either orally or intravenously and while these drugs and routes of administration have proven effective, many of them come with unwanted side effects.  It is thought that some of these side effects might be due to the way the treatments are absorbed and metabolized by the body and the fact that the drugs are generally delivered throughout the whole body when given orally or intravenously.  New research is exploring the possibility of delivering breast cancer drugs with a skin patch.

In this new study , breast cancer researchers used a cell culture system designed to test the ability of drugs and other compounds to diffuse across various membranes.  For their study, these investigators tested the ability of 4-hydroxytamoxifen, the active metabolite of tamoxifen, and two epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitors to pass through full thickness skin and potentially alter the growth of breast cancer cells.  The results of these experiments showed that
  • All three test drugs were able to successfully cross the full thickness skin.
  • The amount that crossed the skin was low (< 5% of the applied dose)
  • A combination of these three drugs was shown to cross the skin barrier and reduce the growth of breast cancer cells in the chamber below by about 66%.
While this breast cancer research is in the very, very early stages, the results of this study are intriguing and open the possibility of new breast cancer therapy options.  In general, the benefits of applying treatments to the skin rather than taking them orally is that it might be possible to limit whole body exposure and therefore reduce potential side effects.  Of course,  this cell culture research will need to be re-tested in animal studies and eventually in human clinical trials before we will know the real potential of topically applied breast cancer treatments.  Previous studies have explored the possibility of topical treatments for breast cancer that had metastasized to the skin, which is different than trying to treat the primary breast tumor in this fashion.

While discoveries of possible new methods to treat breast cancer continue to be made, there are things we can do as part of our every day life to reduce our risk of getting breast cancer.  Read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer ( ) to learn more.
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