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Patrick Couvreur, Barbara Stella, Véronique Rosilio, Luigi Cattel
Coated inside minuscule capsules, anti-cancer drugs can be transported straight to diseased cells in the human body, where they take action without harming healthy tissue along the way.
Université Paris-Sud & Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique
Medical technology, nanotechnology
Prior to the invention of nano-capsules for targeted drug delivery, doctors treating cancer patients with chemotherapy were walking a fine line between cure and poison. Next to stopping the multiplication of cancer cells, the aggressive chemotherapy drugs also damaged healthy tissue.
Packaging the drugs inside minuscule capsules – 70 times smaller than red blood cells and shielded by a biodegradable coating – allows for safe passage through the bloodstream until they reach their intended location. This approach minimises the damage to healthy tissue and allows for higher dosages while offering up to ten times the treatment efficiency of chemotherapy.
Cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide, and the World Health Organization estimates its toll to rise to 13.1 million in 2030. Currently in Stage III clinical trials, Patrick Couvreur’s nano-medicines open up an entire category of new treatments to battle the cancer pandemic.
Since its founding in 1997, Couvreur’s company BioAlliance Pharma has raised €20.8 ($27.0) million from financial and strategic investors. Nano-capsules for anti-cancer drug delivery are an emerging category on the world oncology market, estimated $72 billion in 2007 with an annual growth rate exceeding other therapeutic areas.