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Immunotherapy Implant to Treat Pancreatic Cancer

Conn Hastings |

Researchers at Houston Methodist have developed an implant that can provide localized and sustained release of immunotherapies to treat pancreatic cancer. Their device is tiny, at approximately the size of a grain of rice, and they have termed it a “nanofluidic drug-eluting seed”. Pancreatic cancer is particularly difficult to treat, and current therapies have problems penetrating the tumor while resulting in significant side-effects elsewhere in the body. This device is intended for implantation in the tumor, where it releases monoclonal antibodies that can prime the immune system to begin to destroy the tumor. In tests in mice, the device helped to shrink their pancreatic tumors, and even had a knock-on effect by shrinking a distant tumor that was not directly targeted.

Since pancreatic cancer often goes unnoticed until it has already progressed significantly, it is one of the reasons it is notoriously difficult to treat. Most patients already have metastases by the time of diagnosis. At present, drug treatment is limited in its effectiveness, as it is challenging for drug molecules to penetrate the dense tissue of the tumor, and side-effects elsewhere in the body are highly unpleasant for patients and can limit the doses that are possible.

Localized delivery could change this, but simply injecting the drug into the tumor is not useful as it will likely diffuse away very quickly. To address this limitation, these researchers have developed an implantable “seed” that can reside in the tumor for an extended period and deliver a drug. In this case, the drug is not just any chemotherapeutic, but an immunotherapy in the form of a monoclonal antibody that stimulates the patient’s immune system to begin destroying tumor cells.

“Our goal is to transform the way cancer is treated,” said Alessandro Grattoni, one of the developers of the nanofluidic drug-eluting seed. “We see this device as a viable approach to penetrating the pancreatic tumor in a minimally invasive and effective manner, allowing for a more focused therapy using less medication.”

The tiny seed is made using stainless steel and it contains nanochannels that allow the antibody therapy to diffuse out slowly over an extended period. The device is intended to reside in the tumor for longer than current drug-eluting implants for cancer treatment. The technology also showed promise in a mouse model, and even helped to tackle tumors at distant sites, suggesting that it may help to treat metastases along with the primary tumor.

“One of the most exciting findings was that even though the nanofluidic drug-eluting seed device was only inserted in one of two tumors in the same animal model, we noted shrinkage in the tumor without the device,” said Corrine Ying Xuan Chua, another researcher involved in the study. “This means that local treatment with immunotherapy was able to activate the immune response to target other tumors. In fact, one animal model remained tumor-free for the 100-days of continued observation.”

Study in journal Advanced Science: Sustained Intratumoral Administration of Agonist CD40 Antibody Overcomes Immunosuppressive Tumor Microenvironment in Pancreatic Cancer

Via: Houston Methodist

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