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AMC developing edible form of chemotherapy

A new grant can result in alternative cancer treatments

A recent grant has allowed for Anschutz to research and develop edible chemotherapy.
Photo: Olivia Couch• The Sentry

Thanks to a $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to the Anschutz Medical Campus, cancer patients may be soon eating their chemotherapy at home via edible chemotherapy.

Dr. Tom Anchordoquy, a professor at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the Anschutz Campus, is one of the main researchers heading this project. “Essentially, we are taking advantage of a mechanism that has evolved to pass materials from the mother’s milk into the blood of a baby,” Anchordoquy said.

Anchordoquy continued on to say that they would use the same idea for chemotherapy in cow milk. “Our research will attempt to load chemotherapeutics into cow milk such that the drugs can be taken orally instead of infused. This would potentially allow patients to stay home and consume their chemotherapy instead of needing to travel to a hospital or an infusion center.”

Dr. Michael Graner, a professor working on the research with Anchordoquy, elaborated on the benefits of edible chemotherapy. “One spin-off of this would be to use this mechanism to deliver drugs across the blood-brain barrier, which would be important to treat tumors in the brain. I work in Neurosurgery, so that’s close to my heart,” Graner said. “Tom has already mentioned the benefits of avoiding infusions so all that applies.” 

While chemotherapy is a common treatment for fighting cancer, the cancer-fighting drugs themselves can be deadly. A 2016 report published in The Telegraph showed that of a studied 33,000 cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy across English hospitals, 1383 died within 30 days. When asked about what she had heard about edible chemotherapy, CU Denver public health student, Sherleen Tran said. “[I] would appreciate this direction of research on a personal level. I have had loved ones, both in the past and in the present, who have had to go through chemotherapy. It eats their bodies away and at the same time breaks my heart to see them like that.” Tran said, “I guess from my perspective, edible chemotherapy can be a mechanism used to promote a more comfortable lifestyle for both the patient and the patient’s loved ones. I believe that, especially at later stages in such a brutal illness, individuals struggle to find that balance of a peace of mind.” 

But this also begs the question, will this new research help provide chemotherapy to those who otherwise have a hard time gaining access to such a treatment? The Mesothelioma Center estimates an average cost of an eight-week traditional chemotherapy session to be as high as $30,000. Biology student Sydney Almond said, “It may serve as a step of progress for making cancer treatment more comfortable, but I would worry how expensive the treatment may be. It might not be any more affordable than current treatments, so it may be catered toward a certain demographic.”     

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