Duke University scientists and their colleagues have concocted a new way to combat tumors. In short, they successfully tested a nontoxic injectable polymer in mice that eliminates the need for surgical implantation of radioactive seeds.
The journal Cancer Research published details of the finding. As HealthDay News and Ivanhoe Newswire report, the researchers focused their studies in mice that carried either human head and neck cancer, or prostate cancer. Simply put, they injected into the tumors a radioactive peptide polymer solution that responded to heat. Once injected, the material spontaneously assembled into radioactive seeds.
The results: all of the mice experienced delayed tumor growth after the injections. For 67% of the mice, a single injection wiped their tumors out. There are high hopes for this concept, because the polymer was shown to be both effective and minimally toxic to healthy tissue in the mouse studies.
Longer term, scientists hope this can be a viable option to brachytherapy, where radioactive seeds are surgically implanted into a patient's tumor, in which they emit high levels of radiation to kill the cancer. Those seeds eventually have to be removed, for example, and the polymer is both nontoxic and biodegradable. This therapy--which PhaseBio Pharmaceuticals licensed for further development, according to HealthDay News--is a long way from human trials, and likely several years from reaching patients. And the research team must prove that it will behave the same way in people as it did in mice. But it offers encouragement and a possible cancer treatment alternative that could effectively kill tumors and also cost the healthcare system less if radioactive seed removal surgery becomes unnecessary.