There’s a lot of hype these days over nanoparticle-based cancer treatments, which try to shoot minuscule packages carrying drugs right to tumors. While many have succeeded in mice, very few have actually worked in clinical trials. Biochemist Warren Chan and his colleagues wanted to see how often those nanoparticle efforts fail, and what, if anything, could change that. Here’s what he said about the analysis, published in Nature Reviews Materials.

How often did those treatments fail in humans?

We asked a very simple question: How many nanoparticles actually get into the tumor? We scoured the literature from the last 10 years. It’s about 0.7 percent — that efficiency is very low. Usually, people inject millions or billions of nanoparticles, but still the fact that less than 1 percent goes into the tumor speaks volumes about the concept of targeting.

How do you address that?

We have to figure out what’s going on at the beginning. We know the outcome works in animals, but we don’t know how we get to that positive outcome. All these different things in the body attack the nanoparticles and try to filter them out. If we can better understand how they get filtered, then we can design our particles around those traps.

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