Would treating cancer more like a long-term illness extend lives?

A lot of the focus in the medical approach to cancer focuses on destroying it, but what if it was treated cancer like long-term diseases such as diabetes? Researchers have explored the concept of a method to control cancer with a drug delivery system that keeps the cells from multiplying.

The method, which researchers have called the "metronomic dosage regimen," involves giving the patient lower doses of chemotherapy more frequently to create an environment where cancer cells cannot grow.

"This new system takes some existing cancer therapy drugs for ovarian cancer, delivers both of them at the same time and allows them to work synergistically," said Adam Alani, an associate professor in the Oregon State University/Oregon Health & Science University College of Pharmacy, and lead author on the study published in the journal Chemistry of Materials. "Imagine if we could manage cancer on a long-term basis as a chronic condition, like we now do high blood pressure or diabetes. This could be a huge leap forward."

Although still being tested in trials, the method has the potential to leave patients in total remission. Most effective in the most complex cancers including ovarian, sarcoma, breast, prostate and lung, this method could extend the timelines for those give those with months to live by managing the cancer.

In an example of a patient with ovarian cancer, the researchers used the method to administer two chemotherapy drugs at levels between 1/10th and 1/3rd of the maximum tolerable dose. While one drug stops the forming of cancer cells, the other cuts off the blood supply the cells need to survive.

"Our goal is to significantly reduce tumors, slow or stop their regrowth, and allow a person's body and immune system time to recover its health and natural abilities to fight cancer," Alani said. "I'm very optimistic this is possible, and that it could provide an entirely new approach to cancer treatment."