Chemotherapy Patients Find Relief From Newly 3D Printed Sponges

Charlotte Mineo, Staff Writer

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A three-centimeter long 3D printed “sponge” has shown promise in reducing the off-target side effects of chemotherapy.

Researchers from the lab of Dr. Steve Hetts studied these devices in pigs and found that 58 to 70 percent of the chemotherapeutic drug doxorubicin could be removed from pig’s bloodstreams, according to Science News. The results were originally published on January 9 in ACS Central Science.

Researchers, led by Steve Hetts, a neuroadiologist at the University of California, hope that these sponges will prevent chemotherapeutics like doxorubicin from reaching sites in the body besides the cancerous tissues that they are supposed to target.

While chemotherapy is an effective tool against many cancers, the harsh side effects, including hair and weight loss along with nausea, are all too real.

In a procedure known as transarterial chemoembolization (TACE) drugs can be delivered directly to the target site, which helps to minimize the unwanted spread of the drug.

However, once the chemotherapy is released into the body, it can impact other tissues if not absorbed by the cancer and surrounding cells.

The Hett lab sponges aim to solve this problem by selectively binding to chemotherapy drugs.

The idea was inspired by the work of cardioloigsts to remove and prevent plaque buildup with major arteries.

The study addresses a major need to prevent “unwanted circulation of the drug”, says Johns Hopkins Radiologist Eleni Liapi, uninvolved with the current research.

Currently, they have studied a drug used to treat liver cancer, which impacts more than 40,000 Americans each year.

The drug doxorubicin comes with the typical side effects of chemotherapy, including nausea and lower white blood cell counts.

Researchers hope that if doxorubicin is injected into a patient’s arteries directly before the tumor site, then a sponge placed in a vein flowing from the tumor site will be able to capture excess drug before it reaches the heart and is recirculated to the entire body, thus preventing the body from suffering.

To develop this novel tool, researchers drew inspiration from the absorption columns that are used to remove pollutants from various water sources.

They designed a resin that binds to doxorubicin and can be coated on a specially-designed support.

By working in collaboration with the lab of Nitash Balsara, the Hetts lab designed the appropriate resin and eventually got the resin to bind to the filter. It took nearly a year, but thankfully, the efforts were well worth it.

The device has been designed to minimize blood clotting, while providing extensive surface area for doxorubicin binding.

It can be inserted into the appropriate vein using an intravenous catheter and then removed after the chemotherapy is complete to minimize any harmful effects.

Currently, the “sponges” have been studied in pigs. Researchers inserted doxorubicin into the arteries of live pigs and monitored the blood levels of the drug after the blood was filtered through a sponge in an appropriate pig vein.

The device captured two-thirds of doxorubicin, giving researchers hope that it may someday bring relief to patients and their families.

Much work remains to be done before the doxorubicin sponges are ready for use by humans. Researchers are currently working to test the system in deeper tissues, such as the liver using pigs.

Following several rounds of regulatory and safety testing on animals, these sponges may move into human trials within a few years.

Eventually, resins may be designed to capture other chemotherapeutics. This would allow doctors and scientists to help patients being treated for a variety of different cancers.

This research promises the future of cancer treatment and research, allowing for more effective and healthy treatment of cancer cells.