Applications of Liposomes in Medicine

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The word liposome may be foreign to many so it is important to provide a definition before engaging in a discussion about them.  This word has Greek roots and is derived from the words “lipos,” meaning fat, and “soma,” meaning body.  When we combine the two words, a new word is formed and the working definition says that it is a small double layer vesicle that typically consists of phospholipids. 

Liposomes were first discovered in 1961 by British hematologist Dr. Alec Bangham at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge.  Bangham and his colleague R.W Horne were testing an electron microscope and eventually the liposome came into being.  56 years have passed since then and a lot of researchers have spent time developing new uses for these vesicles.  During this time, it was discovered that it is possible to fill the liposome with nutrients or other substances and to then deliver them into the body.  Sometimes that substance is a medication. This is perhaps its most important use that has been discovered over the past few decades.

Cancer Therapy

The application of liposomes in cancer treatments has been widely studied so there is a lot of research on the topic.  The first FDA approved drug for cancer that made use of this technology was Doxil and was indicated for the use of Kaposi’s Sarcoma in AIDS patients.  Upon further investigation, it was found that Doxil could also be used in women who have ovarian cancer or breast cancer.  It is also indicated for those with Multiple Myeloma. 

Another drug called Vincristine has been developed and is indicated for use in patients with acute and chronic leukemia, Hodgkin and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, thyroid cancer,  neuroblastoma and brain tumors.  Lipoplatin is yet another drug that is currently being evaluated for non-small cell lung cancer.  Researchers have also looked into its effectiveness with breast cancer patients. 


Liposomal formulated medications can be used to deliver medications for the treatment of fungal infections.  Amphotericin B is one example indicated for use in patients with Aspergillosis, Systemic Candida, Cryptococcosis, Febrile Neutropenia, and Cryptococcal Meningitis. 

There are some topical medications that have also been developed and offer promising results.  Ketoconazole is one example of a liposomal gel.  When compared to other products, this one proved to have more promising results.

When liposomes are used in this context, they allow a safer way for the body to absorb the medication.  This drug formulation does not allow the drug to build up in areas of the body like the Central Nervous System. 

 As time passes, more uses are being found and more people are being helped.  What was once foreign to many is becoming something that is familiar and life-saving.


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