A new method using small particles loaded with chemotherapy drugs is a viable approach to target breast cancer cells that have spread to the bones, according to a report that appeared in the journal Cancer Research. The strategy, developed by a research team at Washington University School of Medicine (WUSM) in St. Louis, Missouri, combines a nanoparticle-based drug delivery method with a surface molecule called integrin β3. The integrin enables the small particles to get inside the bones and deliver the chemotherapy drug directly to the cancer cells. In the study, titled “Bone-induced expression of integrin β3 enables targeted nanotherapy of breast cancer metastases,” researchers provided preclinical data showing that the new approach kills cancer cells while reducing treatment-related toxicity in healthy bone tissues. “For women with breast cancer that has spread, 70 percent of those patients develop metastasis to the bone,” Katherine N. Weilbaecher, MD, professor of medicine at WUSM and senior author of the study, said in a university news release, written by Julia Evangelou Strait. “Bone metastases destroy the bone, causing fractures and pain. If the tumors reach the spine, it can cause paralysis. There is no cure once breast cancer reaches the bone, so there is a tremendous need to develop new therapies for these patients,” Weilbaecher said.