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DOST project brings more hope, less side-effect to cancer patients

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More hope, less side-effect. This noble way of treating cancer is good news to patients and their loved ones.

Developed by experts led by Dr. Jay Lazaro of the Institute of Biology, University of the Philippines Diliman, the treatment entails the use of immunoliposomes as carriers of drug in cancer therapy. It is currently being tested on mice and part of a project funded by the Department of Science and Technology.

"This kind of breakthrough technology is part of DOST’s drug discovery program for 2012,” said Sec. Mario Montejo. “It lists high in the priorities under the Department's antibody molecular oncology R&D in our search for anti-cancer treatments suitable to Filipinos.”

Immunoliposome technology is a more effective drug delivery procedure. In this method, the cancer-treating drugs are coated with liposomes or sacs that can be filled with drugs to treat cancer or any other disease.  The technology is more specific as it targets only cancer cells. Since there are less non-cancer cells affected by the treatment, there is less toxicity and less pain to the patient.

This new technology is much better than the more common method called chemotherapy in which drug is administered intravenously or injected drop-by-drop into the vein. The procedure lasts about 60 to 120 minutes and repeated every three to four weeks.

In general, chemotherapy damages cells that are dividing, including normal cells in the hair, skin, lining of the mouth and digestive system. These body parts are frequently growing or constantly renewing themselves. As a result, patients experience side effects such as nausea or vomiting, immediate allergic reaction, fatigue, weight loss, taste and smell changes resulting in loss of appetite, and hair loss.

Pain is also a common experience among cancer patients, resulting from the cancer itself or the cancer treatment. Although different people may react differently to different drugs, most cancer patients suffer similar toxicity and side effects. These effects can be unpleasant and usually give discomfort to patients and their loved ones who may be affected physically and emotionally.

“At present, we are testing the technology using Caelyx, a certain cancer drug. However, the technology can be eventually used for any other drug and any other illness,” revealed Dr. Lazaro.

Caelyx treatment for cancer may cost about P40,000 to 45,000 for every 20 mg. Although treatment by immunoliposome may cost higher, it is more effective as it is target-specific and has less toxicity and side effects. This means less fatigue for the patient and greater chance of winning and recovering against the disease.

Cancer is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the Philippines. It ranks third after communicable diseases and cardiovascular diseases, according to the Department of Health.

By Maria Judith L. Sablan, S&T Media Service




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