While scientists are operating tirelessly to find new and efficient answers to cancer, many patients currently undergo chemotherapy, a treatment that comes with a whole host of profoundly disagreeable side effects, such as retch, hair loss, and a weakened immune system.
The issue is that chemotherapy medications are toxic, and while they kill cancer cells, they also spread to untargeted parts of the body via the blood. One behavior to tackle this is directly delivering the medications to the tumor website via catheters, but more than 50 percentage still escapes from the target organ.
Now, scientists have created a tiny device that sits inside a vein and acts like a sponge, mopping up the extravagance chemo drug after it’s left the tumor site. It’s essentially a tiny tube coated in a drug-absorbing polymer that allows blood to flow through unhindered.
It’s still very early days for the device- so far it has only been tested under pigs- but it has given some very promising outcomes. In their experimentation, researchers from the University of California( UC ), Berkeley, focused on the liver, publishing their findings in the periodical ACS Central Science.
“We are developing this around liver cancer because it is a big public health threat- there are tens of thousands of new cases every year- and we already treat liver cancer employing intra-arterial chemotherapy, ” said Steven Hetts, an interventional radiologist at the University of California, San Francisco.( Intra-arterial chemo is more targeted than regular chemotherapy and involves administration of the medicine to the artery or arteries that supply the tumor via a catheter .)
The team injected a chemotherapy medication called doxorubicin into each pig’s blood upstream of the liver, and inserted their machine in a vein downstream. After the medication had left the liver, it passed through the device.
Excitingly, 64 percentage of the excess doxorubicin was removed from the blood. The tiny sponge managed to retain all of the medication that it assimilated, it is therefore didn’t leach back into the body.
“Surgeons snake a wire into the bloodstream and place the sponge like a stent, and just leave it in for the amount of hour you dedicate chemotherapy, perhaps a few hours, ” explained Nitash Balsara of UC Berkeley. Each session would require a fresh device, which could be tailored to the patient’s body as the little sponges are 3D printed.
While promising, studies and research still has a style to go before the technique can be used in people. As Steve Rannard of Cancer Research UK told BBC News, “We now need to build a greater torso of proof to ensure this technique is safe before we can see if this could be an effective approach in cancer patients.”
If proved safe and effective, the sponge’s temporary nature could mean that it is approved for use quicker than permanent machines. “There is a lower bar in terms of approval by the FDA, ” said Hetts. “I think this type of chemofilter is one of the shortest pathways to patients.”