Cancer ‘sponge’ could cut hair loss and other side-ef­fects of chemo­ther­apy

Tehran Times - - HEALTH -

The toxic side-ef­fects of chemo­ther­apy could be re­duced by a sponge-like de­vice which strains leftover cancer drugs from the blood stream be­fore they dam­age the brain or cause hair loss.

U.S. re­searchers showed that, in an­i­mal tests at least, up to two-thirds of the un­wanted drugs were ab­sorbed by a fil­ter placed in a ma­jor vein lead­ing away from the site of a tu­mour.

If the re­sults can be re­pro­duced in hu­man tests, the de­vice could al­low doc­tors to de­liver drugs in higher doses which would usu­ally be too toxic to be used med­i­cally.

The fil­ter was in­spired by ab­sorbers used to re­move un­wanted im­pu­ri­ties like sul­phur from fuel, and works like the stents al­ready rou­tinely used in car­dio­vas­cu­lar medicine, re­searchers from the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Berkley said.

“Lit­er­ally, we’ve taken the con­cept out of petroleum re­fin­ing and ap­plied it to chemo­ther­apy,” Pro­fes­sor Ni­tash Bal­sara, one of the au­thors of the study pub­lished in ACS Cen­tral Sci­ence.

“Sur­geons snake a wire into the blood­stream and place the sponge like a stent, and just leave it in for the amount of time you give chemo­ther­apy, per­haps a few hours.”

The re­search was tri­alled in pigs and tested on the liver cancer chemo­ther­apy drug dox­oru­bicin. The de­vice, dubbed the “chemofil­ter” has a hon­ey­comb struc­ture coated with a poly­mer which re­acts with the drug and pre­vents it be­ing re­leased – sim­i­lar to the cat­alytic con­ver­tor in a car ex­haust.

In the pig tri­als the de­vice cap­tured 64 per cent of the drug that would oth­er­wise have cir­cu­lated around the body, dam­ag­ing the im­mune sys­tem and caus­ing ul­cers, nau­sea and other symp­toms. Side-ef­fects of dox­oru­bicin in hu­mans in­clude hair loss, anaemia and in­creased risk of in­fec­tion, as the cir­cu­lat­ing drugs kill off sen­si­tive hair fol­li­cles and blood cells, ac­cord­ing to Macmillan Cancer Sup­port.

Dr Steven Hetts, an­other of the au­thors, said if it’s shown to work in hu­mans the de­vice could be rapidly ap­proved for pa­tients be­cause it’s a re­mov­able im­plant.

“We are de­vel­op­ing this around liver cancer be­cause it is a big pub­lic health threat – there are tens of thou­sands of new cases ev­ery year,” he added.

“But if you think about it, you could use this sort of ap­proach for any tu­mour or any dis­ease that is con­fined to an or­gan, and you want to ab­sorb the drug on the ve­nous side be­fore it can dis­trib­ute and cause side ef­fects else­where in the body.”

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