Researchers have discovered a potentially breakthrough cancer treatment that cured mice of the disease in as little as a week.
A team at Rice University in Houston, Texas, has built “drug factories”, bead-like devices that generate cancer-fighting compounds that help a person’s immune system.
The devices have been successfully tested on mice with both ovarian and colorectal cancer.
While there’s still a long way to go before this kind of technology is available to humans, researchers hope to begin human trials for the device as soon as this year.
The drug factories used to treat and cure pancreatic and colorectal cancer in mice are small bead-like devices that generate cytokines that help the immune system fight tumors. Pictured: Study co-authors Dr Amanda Nash (left) and Dr Omid Veiseh (right) hold pots of the plants
The researchers, who published their findings last week in Science Advance, describe the device as a “translatable cytokine delivery platform.”
A cytokine is a small protein that causes inflammation, which is an immune response to a variety of bodily problems.
Interleukin-2, a type of cytokine, has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of certain cancers.
The researchers note that high doses of the drug injected into a person, however, can be toxic and dangerous.
“A major challenge in the field of immunotherapy is to increase tumor inflammation and anti-tumor immunity while avoiding systemic side effects of cytokines and other pro-inflammatory drugs,” said Dr. Amir Jazaeri, professor of gynecology at Rice, co-author of the study. , said in a statement.
They developed the Drug Factory in an effort to circumvent this problem.
The bead-like device is placed in the body over or near the cancerous tumor. It then continuously creates compounds that direct the immune system to the tumor – hence the nickname “factory”.
It also has a protective coating to prevent it from being destroyed by the immune system before it gets to its intended destination.
“In this study, we demonstrated that ‘drug factories’ enable regulated local delivery of interleukin-2 and tumor eradication in multiple mouse models, which is very exciting,” Jazaeri said.
For some patients, one plant is sufficient, but some may require several to generate the necessary dosage.
Some of the mice who were treated for their cancer with the drug factories were cured within a week (file photo)
“We only administer once, but the pharmaceutical factories continue to manufacture the dose every day where it is needed until the cancer is eliminated,” said Dr Omid Veiseh, professor of bioengineering at Rice.
“Once we determined the right dose – the number of plants we needed – we were able to eradicate tumors in 100% of the animals with ovarian cancer and in seven out of eight animals with colorectal cancer.”
Veiseh said he plans to start human clinical trials for this device as early as this fall and the team would like to use these plants to help humans as soon as possible.
Dr Amanda Nash, co-author of the study, said she believes the devices could also be modified for use against pancreatic, liver and lung cancer, among others.
Colorectal cancer, which affects the colon and rectum, is diagnosed in about 150,000 Americans each year and is the third leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society.
Ovarian cancer affects almost 20,000 women every year, killing around 12,000.