Cancer treatment to be delivered to lungs

Surface acoustic waves propagate along the surface of the nanofabricated Respire® device, leading to the atomisation of drug solutions into a fine mist suitable for inhalation. 

A schematic of the SAW nebulisation mechanism which propagates along the substrate and leaks energy into the liquid film to nebulise the meniscus. Collection of the aerosolised DNA or antibodies is accomplished by placing the device within a conical tube.

March 2013

In treating diseases such as lung cancer, tuberculosis, cystic fybrosis and asthma, a large range of intravenous drugs are directed at the lungs but inefficiently delivered. This has led to significant research into devices that can deliver drugs to the lungs effectively and efficiently. A device under investigation for the generation and delivery of aerosolised drugs is the Respire® system.

At present, many large drugs directed at the lung, including antibodies, are injected intravenously because of the lack of effective inhalation devices. The Respire® inhalation system would enable a portable way of delivering large macromolecular drugs straight to the lungs where they are needed, creating a high local concentration of active drug in the lung to improve patient outcomes.

MCN Technology Fellow, Christina Cortez Jugo from Monash University and colleagues from RMIT University are investigating the formation of inhalable droplets of clinically significant drugs including monoclonal antibodies for cancer therapy and asthma. Promising results show that these fragile drugs remain stable and active after atomisation, paving the way for further testing of their efficacy in treating disease.

The device, developed by Professors James Friend and Leslie Yeo, was fabricated at MCN using standard photolithography techniques. The technology is based on surface acoustic wave (SAW) atomisation. When power is supplied to the miniature device, waves akin to nano-earthquakes travel along the device causing the destabilisation and atomisation of liquid droplets in its path. A fine mist suitable for inhalation is formed.

The group atomised a solution of monoclonal antibodies targeted against the epidermal growth factor receptor, which is over-expressed in lung cancer. The stability, immunoactivity and function of the atomised antibodies were characterised using gel electrophoresis, confocal microscopy and flow cytometry. The results indicate that the Respire® system provides a feasible means of delivering active antibodies as a fine inhalable mist to the lung. Collaboration with Dr. Manuel Ferreira at the Queensland Institute for Medical Research is in place to test the device for the biodistribution and efficacy of the atomised antibodies.

In collaboration with Dr. Manuel Ferreira, the group will be undertaking biodistribution and efficacy studies of inhaled antibody formulations in mice. In addition to monoclonal antibodies, the Respire® system is also being investigated for the inhalable delivery of nanomedicinal formulations and nucleic acid drugs, including small interfering RNA or siRNA for gene silencing applications. Access to the capabilities and expertise at MCN will continue to be important to facilitate the ongoing and future work in this project.

You can read more about this project in Enabling practical surface acoustic wave nebuliser drug delivery via amplitude modulation, published in Lab on a Chip.