American scientists are working to develop an implant against cancer. The device, the size of a small pencil, would be used both to administer treatments and as a cancer cell detector.
Scientists from seven American states, supervised by Rice University in Houston, announce work on the development of an implantable device measuring three inches, or approximately 7 cm, capable of detecting cancer cells and serving as a treatment delivery system of the disease.
An implant that works on the model of “closed loop” therapy
This device is inspired by artificial pancreases developed for diabetic people. These devices are capable of adjusting the dose of insulin released into the patient’s body based on continuously measured blood sugar levels. These “closed loop systems” allow the treatment to be continuously adjusted without the patient having to worry about it.
Developed to fight certain cancers, the implant developed by Rice University would be able to adjust the release of immunotherapy drugs according to needs revealed by on-board sensors. “Instead of keeping patients in a hospital bed, attached to their IV treatment drip and external monitors, we will use a minimally invasive procedure to implant a small device that continuously monitors their cancer and adjusts their dose of real-time immunotherapy. This type of ‘closed loop therapy’ has been used to manage diabetes, where you have a glucose monitor that continually exchanges with an insulin pump. But for cancer immunotherapy, it’s revolutionary” enthuses bioengineer Omid Veiseh, principal investigator of the team.
An implant primarily intended to fight against cancers located in the abdomen
Although they are still at the stage of testing in mice, scientists already imagine being able to treat patients affected by cancer in the abdomen, such as pancreatic or ovarian cancer. They also hope to reduce cancer mortality by 50% in the United States.
Furthermore, they note, it will be possible to adjust the device using a system “wirelessly, potentially with a smartphone”. A way for doctors to react much more quickly to any evolution of the disease.
Currently, the patient must undergo tests and wait to obtain their results before doctors can develop a new treatment plan, which can take months.
Funding worth $45 million
Following the progress of the first tests carried out in mice, for which the scientists obtained encouraging results, the sum of 45 million dollars was granted to them for a phase 1 clinical trial of the implant against cancer of the recurrent ovary.
Objective: to try to treat this recurrent ovarian cancer and subsequently move on to clinical trials of this implant in humans in five years.