Researchers from the Oregon State University and the United Kingdom have come up with a new approach to cancer treatment, in which significantly lower doses of chemotherapeutic drugs are given to patients at more frequent time intervals. Such a drug delivery system, the researchers say, would have several goals of killing cancer cells and halt the progress of resistance to the cancer drugs in patients.

The approach, called “metronomic dosage regimen,” is in trial stages and aims to slow and control tumors on a long-term and sustained basis. It does not essentially target complete cure for cancer.

The newest system can prove helpful in cancers such as ovarian, sarcoma, breast, prostate and lung that doctors have tough time treating with commonly-used regimen based on “maximum tolerable dose.” This approach creates a negative biological environment for the growth of cancer cells and reduces toxicity from the drug program.

For instance, the researchers explained, two drugs — paclitaxel and rapamycin —commonly prescribed in ovarian cancer treatment are given at levels a tenth to a third of the maximum tolerable dose. One of the drugs targets cancer cells and the other slows down development of cancer cell and the growth of blood vessels at tumor sites.

In the new approach, the drugs are attached to polymer nanoparticles that are particularly attracted to cancer cells. The system then releases the drugs at a specific acidity level common to those cells. According to the researchers, the low doses, proper target of the drugs and their ability to work in collaboration appeared to considerably increase their effectiveness and almost completely remove toxicity.

“Our goal is to significantly reduce tumors, slow or stop their regrowth, and allow a person’s body and immune system time to recover its health and natural abilities to fight cancer,” Adam Alani, lead author of study said, in a statement released Friday. “I’m very optimistic this is possible, and that it could provide an entirely new approach to cancer treatment.”

Alani also said that total remission of cancer can be possible with metronomic dosage. However, their primary aim is not only to kill cancer cells but to create an environment in which they do not grow easily, mainly by cutting off the large blood supply these types of cells often need.

“This new system takes some existing cancer therapy drugs for ovarian cancer, delivers both of them at the same time and allows them to work synergistically,” said Alani. “Imagine if we could manage cancer on a long-term basis as a chronic condition, like we now do high blood pressure or diabetes. This could be a huge leap forward.”

The study is published in peer-reviewed Chemistry of Materials journal.