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Drug Sponge Could Minimize Cancer Treatment Side Effects

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Drug Sponge Could Minimize Cancer Treatment Side Effects

Liver cancer treatment has advanced from intravenous delivery of chemotherapy drugs, which affects not only the tumor and liver but also organs throughout the body (red, left), to intra-arterial chemo (center), which limits the spread of the drug, though up to half can still exit the liver to poison the rest of the body. The proposed absorber would sop up unused drug emerging from the liver, drastically reducing unwanted effects on other organs (right). Credit: Anand Patel, MD, UCSF
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With the help of sponges inserted in the bloodstream to absorb excess drugs, doctors are hoping to prevent the dangerous side effects of toxic chemotherapy agents or even deliver higher doses to knock back tumors, like liver cancer, that don't respond to more benign treatments.

The "drug sponge" is an absorbent polymer coating a cylinder that is 3D printed to fit precisely in a vein that carries the blood flowing out of the target organ - the liver in liver cancer, for example. There, it would sop up any drug not absorbed by the tumor, preventing it from reaching and potentially poisoning other organs.

In early tests in pigs, the polymer-coated drug absorber took up, on average, 64 percent of a liver cancer drug - the chemotherapy agent doxorubicin - injected upstream.

"Surgeons snake a wire into the bloodstream and place the sponge like a stent, and just leave it in for the amount of time you give chemotherapy, perhaps a few hours," said Nitash Balsara, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and a faculty scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

"Because it is a temporary device, there is a lower bar in terms of approval by the FDA," said Steven Hetts, an interventional radiologist at UC San Francisco who first approached Balsara in search of a way to remove drugs from the bloodstream. "I think this type of chemofilter is one of the shortest pathways to patients."

Most anticancer drugs are poisonous, so doctors walk a delicate line when administering chemotherapy. A dose must be sufficient to kill or stop the growth of cancer cells, but not high enough to irreparably damage the patient's other organs. Even so, chemotherapy is typically accompanied by major side effects, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and suppression of the immune system, not to mention hair loss and ulcers.

"We are developing this around liver cancer because it is a big public health threat - there are tens of thousands of new cases every year - and we already treat liver cancer using intra-arterial chemotherapy," Hetts said. "But if you think about it, you could use this sort of approach for any tumor or any disease that is confined to an organ, and you want to absorb the drug on the venous side before it can distribute and cause side effects elsewhere in the body. Ultimately we would like to use this technology in other organs to treat kidney tumors and brain tumors."

Hetts, Balsara and their colleagues at UC Berkeley, UCSF and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, will publish their results online Jan. 9 in the journal ACS Central Science, an open-access publication of the American Chemical Society.

This article has been republished from materials provided by  University of California, Berkeley. Note: material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.

Reference: Hee Jeung Oh, et al. 3D Printed Absorber for Capturing Chemotherapy Drugs before They Spread through the Body. ACS Cent. Sci., (2019) DOI: 10.1021/acscentsci.8b00700

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