Medical Breakthroughs: Inhaled Chemo

LUNG CANCER: According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States. It accounts for about 170,000 new cancer cases each year. This type of cancer is uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the lung. The most common symptom of lung cancer is a persistent cough, which people often mistake for other illnesses.

TYPES OF LUNG CANCER: These types of cancer make up 90 percent of all lung cancer cases:

  • Small cell carcinoma: This generally begins in the large breathing tubes. It grows fast and by the time it's diagnosed, it is often very advanced.

  • Nonsmall cell lung cancer can be made up of three types of cancer:
    • Epidermoid carcinoma: It usually starts in the breathing tubes, but it grows slowly.

    • Adenocarcinoma: It grows near the outside surface of the lung and can grow slow or fast, depending on the patient.

    • Large cell carcinoma: It starts near the surface wall and grows quickly.

INHALATION CHEMOTHERAPY: Doctors say it's important to constantly be searching for new treatments or delivery methods for lung cancer. Radiation Oncologist Gregory Otterson, M.D., says, "Our overall survivals, although better, I think, than what they were 5 years, 15 years, 20 years ago, are still to my mind inadequate."

He is optimistic about a new delivery method for the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin. He indicates success in animal studies gave researchers confidence to move forward with this research in humans. The treatment involves inhaling a mist of chemotherapy so it goes directly into the lungs. The goal is to maximize the delivery to the area needing treatment and minimize the toxicity to the rest of the body. By doing this, doctors hope to treat the cancer better and produce fewer side effects.

The drug is inhaled using a nebulizer, which relies on the patient's breaths to get the drug to the lungs rather than an aerosol which ends up sending much of the drug to the back of the throat. Patients go through the treatment in a tent to keep the drug from escaping into the air.

The animal studies found a 25 percent response rate with aerosolized chemotherapy in dogs with end-stage lung cancer. Furthermore, researchers found there was a 25-fold increase in the amount of chemotherapy found in the lungs compared with the level obtained with traditional intravenous delivery.

CENTERS STUDYING INHALATION CHEMO: The Phase I trial of inhaled doxorubicin is ongoing at several centers including

  • Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York
  • The Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital in Columbus, Ohio
  • Richard J. Solove Research Institute in Columbus, Ohio
  • Tthe University of Chicago
  • The University of Wisconsin
  • Yale University
  • National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland.


Michelle Gailiun
The Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and
Richard J. Solove Research Institute
1111 N. Doan Hall
Columbus, OH 43210
(614) 293-3737

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