Globally, lung cancer is responsible for more than 1.7 million deaths each year, according to the World Health Organization. Although cancer treatments have become increasingly personalized and precise in recent years, current treatments still expose large portions of a patient’s body to toxicity. Therefore, traditional treatment options like radiation and chemotherapy often lead to unpleasant side effects.
For decades, researchers have successfully developed inhaled treatments for ailments like asthma, chronic bronchitis, COPD and emphysema. Because pulmonary drug delivery is the standard treatment for many lung diseases, it’s possible that the same treatment delivery system may someday be applicable for treating lung cancer.
Researchers are only in the beginning stages of exploring this new treatment possibility, but their efforts have shown promising results. About a decade ago, clinical trials started to examine the use of anticancer compounds designed for inhalation. These trials demonstrated moderate results, and they showed reduced toxicity in tissues that weren’t targeted for cancer treatment. This means a greater number of compounds could be safely delivered to lungs while killing cancer cells without extensive damage to healthy cells in other parts of the body.
As of 2018, anti-sense oligonucleotides (ASO) and protein therapies are being developed and used in clinical trials. The therapies use nanocarriers that are designed and tested by researchers, so they can find the optimal carriers for delivering anticancer drugs to the lungs. While research for this treatment is still in the early stages, it has been demonstrated that lipid-based nanocarriers are most suitable to effectively treat lung cancer.
This technology won’t be available anytime soon, but recent progress is still a great testament to the continuous advancement of lung cancer treatment. In the future, there is a good possibility that inhaled treatments could be used to successfully treat lung disease. These treatments could lead to better patient compliance and a higher percentage of successful outcomes.