Device delivers cancer drugs more efficiently

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A new device that delivers cancer drugs directly into tumours without relying on perfusion via the bloodstream, could increase life expectancy for patients with pancreatic, breast and other solid cancers, say researchers.

Medical News Today reports that according to a team from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, the new device uses a method called "iontophoresis" where an electrical field drives chemotherapy drugs directly into the tumour, preventing their growth, and in some cases, even shrinking them. The electrical field is conveyed via electrodes either implanted internally – for example to treat a pancreatic tumour – or applied externally to the skin to treat an underlying breast tumour.

The report says the main reason three quarters of people who develop pancreatic cancer do not survive more than 12 months after diagnosis – a statistic that has not changed in 40 years – is because by the time the cancer is found, it is at an advanced stage and difficult to treat. Unfortunately, while surgery is the best option for curing pancreatic cancer, not many patients can have it because by the time their tumour is detected it has entwined itself with major organs and blood vessels.

In their study, the team showed that the iontophoretic device delivered chemotherapy drugs into the tumours much more effectively than the conventional intravenous (IV) method, and also achieved higher concentrations of the drugs in the tumour without increasing toxicity to the rest of the body.

Co-author Jen Jen Yeh, associate professor of surgery and pharmacology in the School of Medicine at UNC, says: "Once this goes to clinical trials, it could shift the paradigm for pancreatic cancer treatments – or any other solid tumours where standard IV chemotherapy drugs are hard to get to."

Full Medical News Today report Science Translational Medicine abstract

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