New systems for lipid based drug delivery
Kinase inhibitors are a promising class of medicine that is currently in development. They are small molecular agents aimed towards kinases, proteins that play a central role in disease development and progression. The trouble is that these kinase inhibitors not only affect diseased cells, but healthy cells as well, which causes unacceptable toxicity in humans. If they could be formulated properly this might circumvent side effects and improve their general therapeutic efficacy. However, currently, no appropriate way is available to do this.

This project uses a systematic approach that combines two fields of research, chemistry and pharmacy, with drug formulation studies. This will not only lead to a versatile manner of delivering the drug for the future use of kinase inhibitors in the treatment of cancer and chronic inflammatory diseases, but also a variety of other drug classes that are under development in the pharmaceutical industry.

Fast facts
Full project title: A versatile lipid based drug delivery system for the treatment of inflammatory diseases and cancer
Start date: June 2009
End date: December 2013
Goal: Finding new methods of drug formulation for kinase inhibitors
Principal investigator: Ingrid Molema, University Medical Center Groningen
Project size: 2,2 FTE's
Partners: Syncom, Synvolux Therapeutics, University Medical Center Groningen

Background

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. It is a generic term for a large class of diseases all having one element in common: uncontrolled division (growth) of cells. In most cases a tumor develops, which is an abnormal growth of tissue resulting from the uncontrolled division of cells. This process may be started by external agents called carcinogens or inherited genetic factors. Carcinogens can be subdivided among physical, chemical and biological carcinogens.  The most important carcinogen is tobacco smoke (chemical carcinogen), others include radiation (physical carcinogen) and infections from specific bacteria, parasites or viruses (biological carcinogens). Cancer may also be caused by random errors in DNA replication. 

Cancer can affect any part of the body and the symptoms thus vary depending on the type of cancer. Most common, however, are lung, stomach, breast, colon and liver cancer. Parallel to the large variety of cancer types there is also a large variety of treatment types. The most occurring are chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery. Which method is chosen depends on the location and stage of the disease as well as the patient’s general health. 

Inflammatory Disease
An inflammation reaction is an attempt of the body to remove harmful stimuli such as damaged cells, irritants, viruses, bacteria or infectious agents. It should not be confused with infection, because an infection is caused by an external infectious agent whereas inflammation is the reaction against such agents. The symptoms of inflammation include redness, swelling, pain, fever, chills and fatigue. During an inflammation reaction, white blood cells are sent to the irritated areas in order to cleanse. Chemicals from the white blood cells are released to increase the blood flow, and thus these white blood cells, to the area. This blood flow results in the redness and warmth of the affected area. 

The inflammation can affect tissue, joints, but also organs. Diseases associated with inflammation are for example rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, but also auto immune diseases. In this latter disease the body is triggered to use inflammation to attack foreign ‘intruders’ while in fact there are none. An overactive immune system thus causes the body to attack its own cells. Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common form of inflammatory disease, with 150.00 patients in the Netherlands in 2003 and inflammatory bowel disease makes a good second with approximately 35.000 patients.

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