This article has been revised in accordance with the Science X editorial process and policies. The editors highlighted the following features while ensuring the credibility of the content:
Nanomedicine researchers at Houston Methodist have found a way to tame pancreatic cancer–one of the most aggressive and difficult-to-treat cancers–by delivering immunotherapy directly to the tumor with a device smaller than a grain of rice.
In research recently published in advanced science, Houston Methodist Research Institute researchers used an implantable nanofluidic device they invented to deliver a CD40 monoclonal (mAb), a promising immunotherapeutic agent, at a sustained low dose via nanofluidic seeds infused (NDES). The result, which was found in mouse models, was tumor reduction at a dose four times lower than conventional systemic immunotherapy.
“One of the most exciting findings was that although the NDES device was only inserted into one of two tumors in the same animal model, we observed tumor shrinkage without the device,” said Corinne Ying-Xuan Chua, PhD. Co-author and assistant professor of nanomedicine at Houston Methodist Academic Institute. “This means that the topical immunotherapy treatment was able to activate the immune response to target other tumors. In fact, one animal model remained tumor-free for 100 days of continuous monitoring.”
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma is often diagnosed at an advanced stage. In fact, about 85% of patients already have metastases at diagnosis.
Immunotherapy shows promise in treating cancers that previously did not have good treatment options. However, since immunotherapy is delivered throughout the body, it causes many side effects that are sometimes long-term, if not life-long. By focusing delivery directly into the tumor, the body is protected from toxic drug exposure and has fewer side effects, essentially allowing patients undergoing treatment to have a better quality of life.
“Our goal is to change the way cancer is treated. We see this device as a viable approach to penetrating pancreatic tumors in a minimally invasive and effective manner, allowing for more focused treatment with fewer drugs,” said Alessandro Grattoni, PhD. PhD, co-author and chair of the division of nanomedicine at the Houston Methodist Research Institute.
Houston Methodist researchers are studying a similar nanofluidic delivery technology on the International Space Station. Grattoni’s Nanomedicine Laboratory at Houston Methodist focuses on implantable nanofluidic-based platforms for controlled drug delivery and long-term cell transplantation for the treatment of chronic diseases.
The NDES device consists of a stainless steel drug reservoir containing nanochannels, which create a membrane that allows continuous diffusion as the drug is released.
Other medical technology companies offer intra-tumor drug-adjusted implants for cancer treatments, but these are intended for shorter-term use. The Houston Methodist nanofluidic device is designed for long-term, controlled and sustained release, avoiding repeated systemic treatment that often leads to adverse side effects.
Additional lab research is underway to determine the effectiveness and safety of this delivery technology, but the researchers would like to see this become a viable option for cancer patients in the next five years.
Houston Methodist Research Institute collaborators on this study include Hsuan-Chen Liu, Daniel Davila Gonzalez, Dixita Ishani Viswanath, Robin Shay VanderPaul, Shani Zakia Saunders, Nicola D. Trani, Whitian Shaw, Junjun Cheng, and Xu Hsia Chen.
Hsuan‐Chen Liu et al, Sustained intrauterine administration of anti-CD40 antibodies overcomes the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment in pancreatic cancer, advanced science (2023). DOI: 10.1002/advs.202206873