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Endocr Relat Cancer. 2005 Jul;12 Suppl 1:S189-99.

Polymer-drug conjugates: towards a novel approach for the treatment of endrocine-related cancer.

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Centre for Polymer Therapeutics, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK.


The last decade has seen successful clinical application of polymer-protein conjugates (e.g. Oncaspar, Neulasta) and promising results in clinical trials with polymer-anticancer drug conjugates. This, together with the realisation that nanomedicines may play an important future role in cancer diagnosis and treatment, has increased interest in this emerging field. More than 10 anticancer conjugates have now entered clinical development. Phase I/II clinical trials involving N-(2-hydroxypropyl)methacrylamide (HPMA) copolymer-doxorubicin (PK1; FCE28068) showed a four- to fivefold reduction in anthracycline-related toxicity, and, despite cumulative doses up to 1680 mg/m2 (doxorubicin equivalent), no cardiotoxicity was observed. Antitumour activity in chemotherapy-resistant/refractory patients (including breast cancer) was also seen at doxorubicin doses of 80-320 mg/m2, consistent with tumour targeting by the enhanced permeability (EPR) effect. Hints, preclinical and clinical, that polymer anthracycline conjugation can bypass multidrug resistance (MDR) reinforce our hope that polymer drugs will prove useful in improving treatment of endocrine-related cancers. These promising early clinical results open the possibility of using the water-soluble polymers as platforms for delivery of a cocktail of pendant drugs. In particular, we have recently described the first conjugates to combine endocrine therapy and chemotherapy. Their markedly enhanced in vitro activity encourages further development of such novel, polymer-based combination therapies. This review briefly describes the current status of polymer therapeutics as anticancer agents, and discusses the opportunities for design of second-generation, polymer-based combination therapy, including the cocktail of agents that will be needed to treat resistant metastatic cancer.

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