New Therapeutic Gel Shows Promise Against Cancerous Tumors

Source: University of North Carolina Health Care

Summary: Researchers have created an injectable gel-like scaffold that can hold combination chemo-immunotherapeutic drugs and deliver them locally to tumors in a sequential manner.

In our bodies right now, there are normal cells mutating from their typical form and function. Thankfully, as our immune system lets normal cells move along and perform important biological functions, mutated cells are recognized and destroyed. Unfortunately, though, these cells can hijack the system designed to dispatch them. If that happens, these cancerous cells become virtually undetectable, free to multiply unabated, and able to form tumors. Researchers from the University of North Carolina Health Care have created an injectable gel-like scaffold that can hold combination chemo-immunotherapeutic drugs and deliver them locally to tumors in a sequential manner. The research showed that this localized delivery of combination therapy significantly inhibited the recurrence of cancer after the primary tumor was surgically removed. The study findings were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.


When injected into tumors, this therapy forms a gel to attack cancer cells. Credit: Gu Lab

They called it a bioresponsive scaffold system. Essentially, it’s a hydrogel – a polymeric network that can be loaded with therapeutics. The trick is that the gel can be formed quickly inside the body once a biocompatible polymer and its crosslinker are mixed together. The research made sure that one of these agents can be cleaved apart by reactive oxygen species or ROS – a natural chemical byproduct of cell metabolism. In the context of cancer, a high level of ROS is a major player in tumor development and growth. They tested this therapeutic gel-mediated approach against two cancers – B16F10 melanoma and 4T1 breast cancer, the latter being low immunogenic. The method was effective at making the tumor microenvironments susceptible to treatment. And when the payload was released, tumors decreased significantly.

Assoc. Prof. Zhen Gu said, “Regarding the potential of this approach, scientists should further investigate the biocompatibility of using the gel scaffold for clinical benefit”, “Meanwhile, we will optimize the dosages of combination drugs as well as treatment frequencies.”

More Information: C. Wang et al., “In situ formed reactive oxygen species–responsive scaffold with gemcitabine and checkpoint inhibitor for combination therapy,” Science Translational Medicine (2018). … scitranslmed.aan3682 

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