Mouse Study Points to New Way to Shrink Pancreatic Tumors

MONDAY, April 17, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- New research in mice shows promise for a potential therapy for pancreatic cancer, which can be aggressive and hard to treat.

Researchers from Houston Methodist tested a device that, while smaller than a grain of rice, could deliver immunotherapy directly into a pancreatic tumor. It's called a nanofluidic drug-eluting seed (NDES).

The scientists invented the implantable device to deliver CD40 monoclonal antibodies at a sustained low-dose.

Tumors shrank at a dose that was four times lower than traditional systemic immunotherapy, the study authors reported. However, the findings are early and research done in animals is often different when repeated in people.

“One of the most exciting findings was that even though the NDES device was only inserted in one of two tumors in the same animal model, we noted shrinkage in the tumor without the device,” said study co-author Corrine Ying Xuan Chua, an assistant professor of nanomedicine at Houston Methodist Academic Institute.

“This means that local treatment with immunotherapy was able to activate the immune response to target other tumors. In fact, one animal model remained tumor-free for the 100 days of continued observation,” she said in an institute news release.

By the time pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma is typically diagnosed, it has already spread in about 85% of patients.

Immunotherapy is promising for treating cancers that have lacked good treatment options. But it can cause many side effects, because it is delivered throughout the body.

By delivering the treatment directly into the tumor, the body is protected from exposure to toxic drugs, according to the study. This allows for a better quality of life during treatment.

“Our goal is to transform the way cancer is treated,” said study co-author Alessandro Grattoni, chair of nanomedicine at Houston Methodist Research Institute. "We see this device as a viable approach to penetrating the pancreatic tumor in a minimally invasive and effective manner, allowing for a more focused therapy using less medication."

The NDES device consists of a stainless-steel drug reservoir containing nanochannels.

Other medical technology companies offer intratumor implants for cancer therapeutics, but they are intended to be used for a shorter time.

This device is intended for long-term controlled and sustained release, avoiding repeated systemic treatment.

The researchers are studying similar nanofluidic delivery technology on the International Space Station.

Ongoing study will determine if the delivery is safe and effective. The investigators hope this will become a viable option for cancer patients in the next five years.

The study results were recently published online in the journal Advanced Science.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more on pancreatic cancer.

SOURCE: Houston Methodist, news release, April 13, 2023

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