Chemo ear protection plan

A new research project is underway to help avoid hearing loss caused by the chemotherapeutic drug cisplatin, often used to treat childhood cancers.

The US-based research company Otomagnetics is carrying out the project with funding from the UK charity Action on Hearing Loss.

Dr Ralph Holme of Action on Hearing Loss explains that although steroids can limit the amount of hearing loss caused by cisplatin, the current method of delivering steroids to the cochlea – injecting liquid steroids through the ear drum into the middle ear – is inefficient. The drug needs to be directly delivered to the cochlea otherwise it can reduce the impact of chemotherapy.

The new project aims develop a new method for delivering steroids directly to the cochlea. It uses magnetic fields to insert drug-covered iron nanoparticles into the cochlea. In tests, this method is more effective, reducing hearing loss in mice treated with cisplatin by 50%.

Dr Holme said: "It is vital that we find effective ways of getting drugs into the inner ear, which is why we are backing Otomagnetics.

"It is great news that progress is being made towards finding new ways to protect children’s hearing following cancer treatment with cisplatin which causes the sensory hair cells in the cochlea that detect sound to die and can leave cancer survivors who have already gone through a traumatic experience depressed and isolated."

He adds that the same technique could be used to deliver any drug or stem cell-based treatment to the ear, and to deliver drugs into eyes or into skin.

Ramaswamy, B. et al. Magnetic nanoparticle mediated steroid delivery mitigates cisplatin induced hearing loss. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience 13 September 2017; doi: 10.3389/fncel.2017.00268 [abstract]

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