MIT researchers develop hydrogel patch to deliver cancer combo

Surgery is often the first treatment used in cases of colorectal cancer. However, the surgery doesn’t always remove the entire tumor and cancer cells can be left behind, which could result in recurrence or an increased risk of metastasis.  The patch in question adheres at the site of the tumor, pre- or postsurgery, and delivers a combo of drug, gene and light-based therapy.

Natalie Artzi, a principal research scientist at MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, said that this combination, when released locally, could increase the efficacy of treatment.  The patch could also eliminate some side effects that come along with systemic, or whole-body, therapies like chemotherapy.

In addition to systemic therapies causing excess damage to unaffected areas of the body, the treatment itself tends to be less effective, as only a portion of the drug reaches the tumor site.  MIT News noted that research found that in mice, only 0.7% of nanoparticles administered systemically reached the target tumor.

The patch contains nanorods which, when exposed to near-infrared radiation, heat up and destroy the tumor.  The nanorods contain a chemotherapy drug as well that is released when the patch heats up. The drug targets the tumor and surrounding cells.

The third aspect of the patch is gold nanospheres that do not heat up, but rather deliver gene therapy to the site. This silences an oncogene–the genes that change healthy cells into cancer cells–in the cancer.  According to MIT News, the idea is to use the patch in one of two ways: as a post-surgical treatment to eliminate the risk of cancer recurrence due to remaining cancer cells at the site, or as a presurgical neoadjuvant, which would shrink tumors prior to removal.

In a study with mice, in 40% of cases where the patch was not used after tumor removal, the cancer returned. Complete remission was achieved when the patch was used after surgery.  “Indeed, even when the tumor was not removed, the triple-combination therapy alone was enough to destroy it,” MIT News explained.  “What is particularly intriguing is that by delivering the treatment locally, multimodal therapy may be better than systemic therapy, at least in certain clinical situations,” Mauro Ferrari, president and CEO of Houston Methodist Research Institute, said in a statement.

Researchers hope to continue experiments with the treatment in larger models, where they hope to use colonoscopy equipment not only to diagnose cancer, however, to inject the patch.  “This administration modality would enable, at least in early-stage cancer patients, the avoidance of open field surgery and colon resection,” Artzi says.  “Local application of the triple therapy could thus improve patients’ quality of life and therapeutic outcome.”

REFERENCE:  Fierce Biotech; 27 JUL 2016; Alyssa Huntley

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