Implantable Device May Minimize Chemotherapy Side Effects

An implantable device that directly delivers chemotherapy right to the site of tumors may more effectively treat pancreatic cancer with far fewer side effects.

Most forms of chemotherapy today are given via intravenous injection, meaning the drug must travel through much of the body before it reaches the site of the cancer, negatively impacting other organs and causing a host of nasty side effects.

The device, which has been developed by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Massachusetts General Hospital, is made from a flexible polymer film containing a chemotherapy agent that can be rolled into a tube, put into a catheter and implanted next to the pancreas. It then unfolds and can just cover the tumor itself, making it very targeted.

The film itself is designed to release drugs over a certain period of time and only on the side that touches the tumor, minimizing potential side effects since the chemotherapy doesn’t reach other organs.

The team focused on pancreatic cancer since it is one of the most difficult organs for chemotherapy to reach. It is also the third leading cause of cancer death in the US with a 5-year overall survival rate of just 6%. In addition, the pancreas has relatively few blood vessels, making it hard for drugs to reach inside.

As of now, the efficacy of the device has only been tested on rodents. However, recent study resultsshow promise for the technology. In the study, researchers used mice with transplanted human pancreatic tumors in them.

One group received the popular chemotherapy drug paclitaxel inserted into the device, while the other group also got paclitaxel, though delivered intravenously over four weeks, similar to standard chemotherapy treatment in humans.

Tumors in the rodents with the implants shrank more compared to tumors in the group that received the standard chemotherapy regimen. Even more remarkable, in the implant group, in some rats saw their tumors disappear completely.

The researchers also noted that the film acted as a kind of barrier to prevent the drug from harming other organs. And after 4 weeks, the concentration of paclitaxel in tumors in the implant group was 5 times higher than in the intravenous-treated rats.

Researchers are currently designing a trial of the device for a human trial, and note that the technology could potentially expand to treat other hard-to-reach tumors such as those in the gastrointestinal tract.

Jonathan Block

Jonathan Block

Jonathan Block is a freelance writer and former MedShadow content editor. He has been an editor and writer for multiple pharmaceutical, health and medical publications, including BioCentury, The Pink Sheet, Modern Healthcare, Health Plan Week and Psychiatry Advisor. He holds a BA from Tufts University and is earning an MPH with a focus on health policy from the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy.

Did you find this article helpful?

Latest News

FDA Recalls Metformin and NP Thyroid

FDA Recalls Metformin and NP Thyroid

The FDA has issued a recall of two drugs–NP Thyroid and Metformin–after testing revealed that they weren’t up to code. Read more below, and if you’re taking either medication, please be sure to contact your doctor for how to continue treatment responsibly.  NP Thyroid Recalled Thirteen lots of NP Thyroid,…

Can Convalescent Plasma Treat COVID-19 Patients?

Can Convalescent Plasma Treat COVID-19 Patients?

One of the most promising treatments for COVID-19 is convalescent plasma, a component of blood. People who have been infected with the virus and are now healthy have developed COVID-19-fighting antibodies, which, the theory is, can be given to people currently sick with COVID-19 so that those antibodies can boost…

  • Advertisement