A study has shown that a tiny device smaller than a grain of rice can shrink pancreatic cancer.
Houston Methodist Research Institute published a paper in Advanced Science demonstrating how a tiny device smaller than a grain of rice can shrink pancreatic cancer.
The device – a nanofluidic drug-eluting seed (NDES) – is implanted into the pancreas to deliver an immunotherapeutic agent at a sustained low dose. The results showed similar tumour shrinkage at four times less dosage than traditional immunotherapy treatment.
Pancreatic cancer – one of the most aggressive types of cancer
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma – pancreatic cancer – is one of the most aggressive types of cancer. It is also one of the most difficult to treat.
If doctors identify the cancer early, some or all of the pancreas can be removed. The problem is that pancreatic cancer is often identified at advanced stages: the tumour is already metastatic at the time of diagnosis in 85% of cases.
90-95% of pancreatic cancer patients die from the disease.
While it is not always clear what causes pancreatic cancer, you are more susceptible if you suffer from conditions like chronic pancreatitis or have a family history of pancreatic cancer.
The NDES device – smaller than a grain of rice
Increasingly, immunotherapy is used to treat pancreatic cancer and other cancers for which treatment options were previously limited. However, immunotherapy is delivered throughout the body, exposing it to toxic chemicals.
This, in turn, means that patients will likely suffer long-lasting – possibly life-long – side effects.
The NDES device is essentially a stainless steel drug reservoir. It contains nanochannels that create a membrane that allows for the sustained release and diffusion of the treatment drug.
Implants using similar technology already exist for cancer therapeutics. However, these implants are for much shorter-term use and use a higher dosage of the treatment drug.
The device developed by Houston Methodist releases a more controlled dosage of the drug over a longer period.
Furthermore, the NDES device focuses specifically on the tumour, like the cancer-killing virus trialled in the UK. This means that the entire body is not exposed to the toxic chemicals involved. Therefore, patients are less likely to encounter the aforementioned side effects.
The results – promising for future treatment of pancreatic cancer
Dr Alessandro Grattoni, co-author of the study, said, “Our goal is to transform the way cancer is treated”.
Grattoni added, “We see this device as a viable approach to penetrating the pancreatic tumour in a minimally invasive and effective manner, allowing for a more focused therapy using less medication”.
The results seem to back up Grattioni’s ambition. The study found tumour reduction at four times less dosage than traditional systemic immunotherapy treatment.
Dr Corrine Ying Xuan Chua remarked that “even though the NDES device was only inserted in one of two tumours in the same animal model, [they] also noted shrinkage in the tumour without the device”.
Ying Xuan Chua explained, “This means that local treatment with immunotherapy was able to activate the immune response to target other tumours.”
Houston Methodist Research Institute will continue to carry out research into the NDES device’s efficacy and safety. They remain hopeful that the device will become a treatment option for cancer patients within the next five years.