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    New device prevents cancer tumors from coming back

    A new nanodevice developed by MIT researchers can help prevent cancer tumors from growing back after chemotherapy, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for the week of March 2.

    The device, which consists of gold nanoparticles embedded in a hydrogel that can be injected or implanted at a tumor site, first blocks the gene that confers drug resistance and then launches a new chemotherapy attack against the disarmed tumors.

    “Drug resistance is a huge hurdle in cancer therapy and the reason why chemotherapy, in many cases, is not very effective”, says João Conde, lead author of the paper and an MIT Instititute for Medical Engineering (IMES) postdoctorate.

    Related: FDA approves antiemetic agent for prevention of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting

    Plus, the nanodevice can be used to target any genetic marker and deliver a drug, “including those that don’t necessarily involve drug-resistance pathways,” said Natalie Artzi, a research scientist at MIT’s IMES (IMES), an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, and senior author of the paper. “It’s a universal platform for dual therapy.”

    To demonstrate the effectiveness of the new approach, Artzi and colleagues tested it in mice implanted with a type of human breast tumor known as a triple negative tumor. Such tumors, which lack any of the 3 most common breast cancer markers — estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, and HER2 — are usually very difficult to treat.

    Using the new device to block the gene for multidrug-resistant protein 1 (MRP1) and then deliver the chemotherapy drug 5-fluorouracil, the researchers were able to shrink tumors by 90% in 2 weeks.

    In mouse studies, the researchers found that the particles could silence MRP1 for up to 2 weeks, with continuous drug release over that time, effectively shrinking tumors.

    This approach could be adapted to deliver any kind of drug or gene therapy targeted to a specific gene involved in cancer, the researchers say. They are now working on using it to silence a gene that stimulates gastric tumors to metastasize to the lungs.

    Related: FDA speeds up drug, device approvals

    “This is an impressive study that harnesses expertise at the interface of materials science, nanotechnology, biology, and medicine to enhance the efficacy of traditional chemotherapeutics,” says Jeffrey Karp, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who was not involved in the research. “Hopefully this approach will perform in studies beyond 14 days and be translatable to patients, who are desperate for new and more effective treatment regimens.”

    Christine Blank
    Contributing Editor Christine Blank is a freelance writer based in Florida.

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