Magic material: Graphene protects chemotherapy, but silver-lined catheters break it down

Elise Ramleth Østli and Ph.D. candidate Federico Mazzola of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.--Courtesy NTNU

Catheters designed to deliver chemotherapy are often coated in silver to provide an antibacterial coating. But scientists at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology found that this silver actually breaks down chemotherapy drugs and can release a harmful gas, hydrogen fluoride in the process. The researchers expect that graphene, which is a nonreactive substance, might be a better catheter coating.

Specifically, the researchers used x-ray photoemission spectroscopy (XPS) to look at the surface chemistry of one of the most commonly used chemotherapy drugs, 5-Fluorouracil (5-Fu), and the interaction between it and the type of silver coating found in intravenous catheters.

"We wanted to find potential problem sources in the tubes used in intravenous catheters. An interaction between the coating and the drugs was one possibility," said Justin Wells, an associate professor of physics at NTNU, in a statement. "Chemotherapy drugs are active substances, so it isn't hard to imagine that the medicine could react with the silver."

He continued, "Reactions between chemotherapy drugs and other substances that the drugs come in contact with have, as far as we know, never been studied like this before." Previously, it's simply been assumed that chemotherapies reach the body intact.

The group also examined how the same chemotherapy drug interacted with graphene and found that it did not react.

"Graphene is a non-reactive substance, and is sometimes referred to as a magical material that can solve any problem. So we thought that it might be a good combination with the chemotherapy drugs," Wells said.

The researchers expect that the material could make a viable alternative for medical equipment coatings. They expect to continue studying the reaction between chemotherapy drugs and medical equipment.

"This research has produced valuable information about the interaction between chemotherapy drugs and other substances that the medicine is in contact with," concluded Wells. "We hope that our work will contribute to making cancer treatment more effective, and that we can continue our work in this area. We would like to study the reaction between chemotherapy drugs and other substances and coatings used on medical equipment."

- here is the release

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