Development of inhalational agents for oncologic use.
Because regional chemotherapy has been useful in treatment and palliation of many cancer types, the concept of delivering drugs by inhalation for the treatment of cancers in the lung is attractive. Much higher local drug exposure can be achieved with total doses considerably lower than those required for systemic administration, resulting in lower exposure of nonrespiratory tract tissues to potentially toxic drugs. Regional delivery of chemotherapy to the respiratory tract has been shown to have activity in preclinical and clinical studies. Technical improvements in delivery methods have now made it possible to conduct trials of inhalational agents, both to treat cancers affecting the respiratory tract and to deliver other drugs used in cancer patients. This review discusses the rationale of drug delivery by the inhalational route, its technical challenges, preclinical and clinical experiences, limitations, and promise.