Investigators at Brigham and Women’s Hospital have developed a hydrogel patch that can adhere to tumours in a preclinical model of colon cancer, delivering a local, combination treatment as the elastic gel breaks down over time. The new technique may allow clinicians to someday use diagnostic colonoscopy equipment to immediately deliver treatment without the need for open surgery at a later date.
The researchers were able to deliver three therapeutic strategies in their mouse model of colon cancer: gene therapy, chemotherapy or thermal ablation or a combination of all three. The team used gold nanoparticles to deliver a gene therapy treatment that targets Kras, a known cancer gene, and used near-infrared radiation to release a chemotherapeutic and cause heat damage to the cancer cells. The local, triple-combination therapy not only shrank tumours but also had a sustained effect overtime, preventing tumour recurrence and significantly extending survival of mice.
The researchers examined the effects of the therapy both with and without resection (surgical removal of the tumour), which is the current standard treatment for colon cancer in humans. In human cases where resection is not possible, a neoadjuvant therapy, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, is often used to shrink tumours before clinicians attempt to remove them. Natalie Artzi, PhD senior author of the study and a principal investigator at BWH, and her colleagues anticipate that their hydrogel patch could someday be used to shrink tumours before resection or could eliminate the need for resection entirely. They plan to test the material in larger preclinical models and dive more deeply into the genetic changes resulting from therapy to pinpoint which genes are most critical to target.
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