Study: Cancer-cell mopping implant could stop disease in its tracks

The implant, which is about 5 millimeters in diameter and made from a “biomaterial” approved for use in medical devices, has already shown success in mice with breast cancer.  Scientists implanted the device in either abdominal fat or under the skin, and found that it sucked up cancer cells that had already started to metastasize, and stopped cells from infiltrating other areas where new tumors could grow. The team published their findings in Nature Communications.

To mop up the cells, the implant mimics a process where cells that break loose from a tumor are attracted to other areas of the body by immune cells.  Once immune cells attached to the implant, it drew the cancer cells in, the BBC reports.  At first, scientists labeled the cancer cells so they would light up and were easily recognizable.  Then they used a special imaging technique to distinguish between cancerous and normal cells, and discovered that they could pinpoint cancer cells caught in the device.

Next up, the team is planning to test its implant in humans, shooting for the first clinical trials in humans fairly soon, study leader Professor Lonnie Shea from the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Michigan, told the BBC.  The scientists will also continue to study the device in animals to see what happens to overall outcomes if the spread of cancer was detected very early-on, he added.  “We need to see if metastatic cells will show up in the implant in humans like they did in the mice, and also if it’s a safe procedure and that we can use the same imaging to detect cancer cells,” Shea said, as quoted by the BBC.

REFERENCE:  Fierce Medical Devices; 09 SEP 2015; Emily Wasserman

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