Mesothelioma patients are often faced with a cocktail of drugs including anti-cancer, anti-nausea, and antibiotics when undergoing treatments. This involves countless, and sometimes lengthy, medical appointments to receive chemotherapy infusions and other injections. Now, a new implantable drug delivery device may revolutionize the way cancer patients receive their medications.
Researchers at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), in partnership with Houston Methodist Research Institute began researching a safer, more effective way to deliver medications to chronically ill patients since precision dosing is needed for maximum effectiveness. When patients are put in charge of their own medications they may forget to take them or, on the other hand, they may inadvertently take too much of a drug, leading to sometimes devastating side effects. For chemotherapy drugs and other infusions, a visit to a medical center is required. These trips can be hard on extremely ill patients, often leaving them exhausted.
Led by Lyle Hood, study lead and assistant professor of mechanical engineering at UTSA, the research team developed a tiny implantable capsule that can deliver medicinal doses for several days or a few weeks, according to a Dec. 2 article in Science Daily. The mechanism can be used for illnesses requiring a localized drug delivery over an extended period of time, such as cancer where the drug can be released directly in the tumor, or for HIV.
The researchers are hopeful that the “new device could revolutionize the delivery of medicine to treat cancer,” and other illnesses. Hood plans to pursue using the device for immunotherapy treatments for cancer patients.
“It’s an implantable capsule, filled with medicinal fluid that uses about 5000 nanochannels to regulate the rate of release of the medicine,” said Hood. “This way, we have the proper amount of drugs in a person’s system to be effective, but not so much that they’ll harm that person.”
While many mesothelioma patients are familiar with a port that is temporarily implanted for chemotherapy treatments, this device is injected under the skin and actually carries the medicine itself. The team hopes to have a fully biodegradable unit available in the future that can be swallowed.
Mesothelioma is an asbestos-caused cancer of the lungs, abdomen or heart that is very aggressive. The cancer requires an equally aggressive treatment, however, sometimes the dosing given in one visit can be too toxic for many patients. This type of delivery system that can give a steady amount of drugs over a period of time could help avoid this issue, while allowing the patient to remain at home.
Mesothelioma is diagnosed in close to 3,000 Americans each year. There is no cure for the cancer.