After years of animal testing, researchers at Penn State University have developed a therapy to treat some of the most resistant cancers without damaging any healthy cells, and that treatment is now in the early stages of testing on humans.
James and Bernadette Adair are both scientists and researchers at Penn State. Married 27 years, they've loved doing everything together, except battling cancer. Bernadette was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007.
"We were still dealing with me when Jim was diagnosed," she said.
Doctors found James Adair's colon cancer in 2008.
Both of them were treated and are now cancer-free. Ironically, even before his or his wife's diagnosis, James Adair had been working to develop a new treatment for cancer through nanotechnology — manipulating cells at the molecular level. It's called ceramide nanoliposome.
"It was at that time an experimental chemotherapeutic that had unique properties," James Adair said.
The ceramide nanoliposome is infused into the body. Because of the tiny size and structure, the nanoparticles travel easily through the body and can slip into tumors, killing the deadly cells and leaving healthy cells intact. James Adair formed a separate company, Keystone Nano, to continue the research, especially for cancers that have few other effective treatments, like liver cancer.
"The animal models have shown great efficacy against that cancer," said Jeff Davidson, CEO of Keystone Nano.
"Kill the cancer, do no harm to the patient. To someone like me who is a cancer survivor, that's awesome," James Adair said.
It's a development that's a decade too late for James and Bernadette Adair, but it may help countless cancer patients live full lives down the road.
The therapy has been approved by the FDA for phase one clinical trials at three U.S. institutions: the Greenebaum Cancer Center of the University of Maryland, the Medical University of South Carolina and the University of Virginia Cancer Center. Researchers are testing the dosing levels on cancer patients for whom other therapies have not worked.