Scientists from Oregon State University have developed a new delivery system for cancer treatment that attacks the condition simultaneously with three different drugs. According to the team, it's likely to prove particularly effective against cancers that spread through the lymphatic system, such as metastatic melanoma.

New prototype treatments with the potential to greatly improve our ability to tackle different cancers have been arriving thick and fast in 2015. In just the last week we've seen a University of Illinois study look at combining cancer drug-carrying nanobubbles and ultrasound waves to attack tumors in the liver, and a new triple helix microRNA treatment from MIT. Now, Oregon State University researchers believe they have a new way of tackling cancers that travel through the lymphatic system.

The new method makes use of nanoparticles, measuring just 48 nm, that have the ability to travel through the lymphatic system and attack cancer cells in lymph nodes. The nanoparticles were loaded with 2 mg of three different cancer-fighting drugs, each of which remained stable for 24 hours.

The treatment is particularly targeted towards melanomas, some 80 percent of which metastasize through the lymphatic system. Such conditions are difficult to treat, with large volumes of cancerous cells building up in lymph nodes.

The researchers used laboratory mice to test the delivery method. After being injected, the particles behaved as hoped, moving primarily into the cancer-filled lymph nodes, working together to maximize treatment impact. The team wasn't able to identify any negative effects of the treatment, with the drug travelling effectively through the system and significantly lowering the number of melanoma cells.

The method is promising, as it allows for a targeted treatment of the lymphatic system without creating high levels of toxicity – one of the big problems with other treatments such as chemotherapy. The use of the nanoparticle delivery also improves drug circulation time, and the delivery of three medications at once lowers the system's ability to build up resistance to treatment.

Lab-based trials of the method are just beginning, with future studies using more aggressive cancers and eventually human trials, which are necessary to assess its overall effectiveness and safety. Providing everything goes to plan, the researchers believe the method could become a new and effective way of treating any cancer that moves through the lymphatic system, which includes everything from melanomas to prostate and lung cancers.

The researchers published the findings of their study in the Journal of Controlled Release.