New Drug Sponge

I found a new article written by Maria Cohut and fact checked by Isabel Godfrey about a new drug sponge that may reduce chemo’s toxic effects.  An innovative and personalized absorber that can catch the toxic chemo drugs when they leak out of a treated organ has been developed by researchers.  This absorber could help to reduce the adverse side effect of cancer treatments.

The University of California(UC), Berkeley, and the University of California (UCSF) has combined a team of researchers that has developed a tiny device like a sponge that is set to absorb chemo agents after they have reached their target.  The hopes are that this absorber will minimize the toxic side effects of taking chemo drugs.  The drugs have a potent effect against cancer tumors but also attack healthy organs and tissue that can impair their function.

The 3-D printed device can fit perfectly into the vein of any individual that is receiving chemo treatment and is absorbent polymer coating that’s able to soak up the toxic agents after passing through the organ being treated.  The new device has been tested as an aid to chemo for liver cancer where the therapeutic drugs travel to the liver in the bloodstream, which can increase the risk of toxic side effects.  The paper outlining their experiments and findings have appeared in the journal ACS Central Science.

The surgeons snake a wire into the bloodstream and place the sponge like a stent, then leave it for the amount of time chemo is given, which is usually a few hours, says Prof. Nitash Balsara from the UC Berkeley.  This absorber was tested in a pig model.  The pig was injected with a chemo drug for treatment of liver cancer and on average, the device was able to intercept 64% of the drug.

Liver cancer is a big public health threat with tens of thousands of new cases every year, so this is being developed around this type of cancer.  Liver cancer is being treated using intra-arterial chemo already, according to co-author Prof. Steven Hetts.  This type of approach for any tumor or disease confined to an organ could use this sort of approach if you want to absorb the drug on the venous side before it distributes and causes side effects somewhere else in the body.  They aim in the future to use this technique in the treatment of cancerous kidney tumors and brain tumors.

The UCSF Mission Bay Hospitals already use a safer way of delivering chemo drugs by inserting catheters into the veins to deliver them straight to the tumor site.  This is already helping to lower the risk of potent drugs infiltrating and affecting healthy tissue.  Prof. Hetts believes that more than 1/2 of the injected drug dose tends to leak out of the targeted organ and reach other parts of the body.

This absorber, that includes an ionic polymer, can effectively intercept the chemo agent doxorubicin to get rid of this problem.  The absorber is a standard chemical engineering concept where absorbers are used in petroleum refining to remove unwanted chemicals.  It’s this concept that is being used with this absorber.

This is a temporary device and there is a lower bar in terms of approval by FDA, but they feel this type of chemofilter is one of the shortest pathways to patients.

Dr Fredda Branyon