Researchers at the USC-CHLA Institute for Pediatric Clinical Research have found a way to make a common form of chemotherapy more palatable for kids: turning it into a powder that tastes like raw cookie dough.
The formulation of fenretinide is the first one ever specifically designed to make it easier for pediatric cancer patients to take their medicine, a feat that garnered the research team a prize at a recent national conference.
The research team at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles included Barry J. Maurer, assistant professor of pediatrics and cell and neurobiology in the Keck School of Medicine of USC, and C. Patrick Reynolds, professor of pediatrics and pathology in the Keck School and director of the Developmental Therapeutics Program at the Institute for Pediatric Clinical Research.
Medical doctors David Yesair of BioMolecular Products Inc. and Walt Shaw of Avanti Polar Lipids Inc. were industry partners on the research team.
Maurer explained that improving drug formulations for children is important not only because adult forms may be unwieldy for kids, but also because there may be more effective ways to get the drugs into the system.
“A past problem with fenretinide has been that its large capsules are difficult for children to swallow and hard for the body to absorb,” Maurer said.
In the new formulation, the fenretinide is encased in a sort of glove of fats – going by the trademark of Lym-X-Sorb – that help carry the drug into the bloodstream.
The new fenretinide formulation can be “mixed with food or drinks to make it easy for children to take,” Maurer said.
More importantly, the new fenretinide powder appears to be much better absorbed than the capsules, and the researchers hope that getting more drug into the body will increase its anti-tumor effect.
The new fenretinide formulation was awarded the 2004 Eurand Award Grand Prize for Novel Approaches in Oral Drug Delivery at the 31st Annual Meeting and Exposition of the Controlled Release Society in Honolulu in June. The Controlled Release Society is the world’s largest professional society dedicated to drug formulations.
A clinical trial of the new fenretinide formulation in children with cancer, led by Maurer, will begin later this year.
The fenretinide formulation work is supported, in part, by the National Cancer Institute Rapid Access to Intervention Development Program, which supports drug development by investigators in academic institutions. NCI investigators Rao Vishnuvajjala and Shanker Gupta also supported the project.
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