DENVER, Colorado – We all know someone who's had chemotherapy.
Many people who have gone through it can tell you getting those IV drips in the hospital is one of the worst parts.
But what if you could take those powerful chemotherapy drugs right in your own home?
That's just one of the benefits of an innovative therapy coming from an unlikely source.
It's helped Ana Garcia Gustafson who is fighting pancreatic cancer.
"I'm giving it all I can give! Kickin' it in the derriere."
To keep hope alive, she takes a mix of potent chemo drugs. Treatment days are six-hour infusions.
"That's pretty tough for an old lady."
Some chemo drugs can be given orally, but many must be given by IV.
"Some drugs just cannot survive the condition in the stomach," explained Tom Anchordoquy, a pharmaceutical scientist at the University of Colorado's Skaggs School of Pharmacy.
"It'd make things a lot easier and cheaper."
He's putting powerful drugs into raw milk.
Milk particles can survive harsh stomach conditions and make it to the bloodstream, right where cancer drugs need to be.
"This particle goes in and it protects it," he explained. "It's like you'd be surrounded by a shield."
That means patients could take powerful drugs that normally have to be given by IV orally at home. And potent drugs too dangerous for humans could now work when attached to milk particles.
"By putting them in these particles, we can hopefully minimize their toxicity a little bit and make them a little more amenable to human use, said Anchordoquy.
NEW RESEARCH: Extensive research is now being conducted using particles from raw milk, attempting to encapsulate chemotherapy drugs in them. This creates a barrier or shield that could protect the drug from the acidic enzymes in the stomach, allowing the drug to move from the digestive tract into the blood. If successful, the drug would then circulate in the bloodstream and treat the cancer patient in this way. Right now researchers are focused on one particular drug, Irinotecan.
His biggest supporter is Ana.
"What a great mind to think outside the box!"
With hope intact, Ana's learning to live a new normal.
"We'll take it one day at a time. I want to live."
Scientists say getting treated at home is a big plus for patients undergoing chemotherapy. But researchers are even more excited about what this technique could mean for future treatments.
Very powerful drugs that cannot be used in humans right now could soon be a real option just by attaching them to milk particles.
If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at firstname.lastname@example.org or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at email@example.com.