Researchers have designed a biomedical device for absorbing excess chemotherapy drugs during cancer treatment, characterizing the active surface layer using x-ray microtomography at the Advanced Light Source (ALS).
The work at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (Berkeley Lab) opens up a new route to fighting cancer that minimizes drug toxicity and enables personalized, targeted, high-dose chemotherapy.
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 in the target organ, but not high enough to irreparably damage a patient’s other organs.
In this work, researchers created “drug sponges,” tiny cylindrical absorbers coated inside with a polymer that has a high affinity for binding doxorubicin, a widely used chemotherapy drug. Designed to be placed in a vein, these devices are 3D printed for each use rather than mass produced, so they can be customized for a given patient.
In preliminary tests in pigs, the researchers found that the absorber bound up, on average, 64% of the doxorubicin injected upstream of a healthy liver. Immediate plans are to see if the scaffolds can be printed with smaller pores, to increase the surface area absorbing the drug molecules without interfering with the flow of blood cells.
Human tests are still a few years away, but the researchers envision that this approach could eventually be applied to any drug targeting a particular organ, such as high-powered antibiotics that are required to kill a pathogen. Although much work remains, this study opens a new route to help patients fight disease and improve survival by minimizing drug toxicity.