Washington | Scientists have developed an implantable device that can deliver a particularly toxic cocktail of drugs to shrink pancreatic tumours or stunt their growth, without causing side effects in the rest of the body.
We use the device to hit the primary tumour hard, said Jen Jen Yeh, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. It’s an exciting approach because there is so little systemic toxicity that it leaves room to administer additional drugs against cancer cells that may have spread in the rest of the body, Yeh said.
The cocktail FOLFIRINOX, a combination of four chemotherapy drugs has been shown to shrink tumours or halt their growth in nearly a third of pancreatic cancer patients. It is one of today’s first-line treatments for pancreatic cancer, but it is not suitable for all patients due to its degree of toxicity when delivered through the bloodstream, researchers said.
The new device, currently tested in mice, delivers the drugs directly to the tumour, providing a viable alternative to sending this toxic cocktail through the bloodstream, limiting harsh effects throughout the rest of the body. We are striving to get our device into clinical trials within the next several years, said Joseph M DeSimone, Professor at UNC.
The prospect of halting tumour growth with our device, and potentially shrinking tumours, could help more patients qualify for surgery, said DeSimone, who is also a professor at North Carolina State University. Surgically removing a tumour is currently the best chance of cure for patients with pancreatic cancer, but only 15 per cent of patients have operable tumours.
The implantable device uses electric fields to drive the chemotherapy drugs directly into tumours. In a previous study the team showed in animal models, that the device could be implanted on top of pancreatic tumours to increase the amount of the cancer drug gemcitabine reaching them. The tumours stopped growing and shrunk, providing more favourable conditions to remove the tumour and cure the disease.
In the current study, the device was used with a more potent four-drug combination, making the treatment more effective while limiting unbearable side effects. The accumulation of drug in the tumour using the device was at least three times more than when using IV administration.
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