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Nicolosi, Pro Pharmaceuticals Partner on Study

Improved Cancer Treatment Sought

Robert Nicolosi

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The University of Massachusetts Lowell has allied with Pro Pharmaceuticals of Newton in a research collaboration focused on target drug therapy in the treatment of cancer.

The research will characterize the company’s drug delivery system using their product DAVANAT in conjunction with the common chemotherapy drug Fluorouracil (5-FU).

“In characterizing the drug delivery system, we are measuring things like particle size, charge (zeta potential), pH and viscosity,” says Prof. Robert Nicolosi, director of the Center for Health and Disease Research in the School of Health and Environment. “Our preliminary results suggest that we can improve the delivery system.”

The current system works by thwarting the replication of DNA within malignancies, leaving cancer cells unable to divide. However, 5-FU does not differentiate between tumor cells and normal cells, causing increased toxicity in the body and a weakened immune system.

Pro Pharmaceuticals hopes to decrease toxicity levels and optimize efficacy through targeted drug therapy. The compound DAVANAT shuttles the 5-FU directly to the tumor. Nicolosi believes decreasing the size of the delivery system affords added benefit.

“A nano-delivery system makes the drug 10 to 20 times smaller than the traditional delivery system. It has increased solubility so fewer drugs are required and it can efficiently accumulate in the desired target," says Nicolosi.

Phase two of the research was released recently. Preliminary results showed a mean improvement in the selected cohort of 20 patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

“Collaborating with the University of Massachusetts Lowell represents an exciting opportunity to partner with a premier academic institution," said David Platt, Ph.D., Pro-Pharmaceuticals chairman and chief executive officer, this past December.