A new nanotech-enabled drug recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration promises to make life a little easier for patients with breast cancer. The drug, Abraxane, is the first of a new class of so-called protein-bound particle drugs, which use naturally occurring proteins to facilitate drug delivery.

Marketed by American Pharmaceutical Partners, Abraxane is the anticancer drug paclitaxel (Taxol), reengineered and reborn into a nanoparticle that hitches a ride on albumin, a protein already found in the body. Patrick Soon-Shiong, American Pharmaceutical's executive chair, says this is the first example of a nanoparticle-coupled human protein.

The albumin molecule allows paclitaxel to cross blood-vessel walls to deliver the drug to where it's needed. From the patient's point of view, it's easier to swallow than Cremophor, the polyethoxylated castor oil used to ensure that Taxol is absorbed properly. Patients often require additional medications to counteract Cremophor's toxicity. In contrast, Abraxane...

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