JUN 11, 2016 10:03 AM PDT

New Agent Absorbs Toxic Drugs to Reduce Chemo Harm

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham
Killing cancer is only half the battle. Sparing healthy cells and tissues while defeating cancer is the other half that’s more difficult than it sounds. Scientists have attempted to solve this problem by making drugs that specifically target only the cancer cells. But researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are taking a different approach. They’ve developed the equivalent of a chemical “sponge” that’s designed to soak up excess toxic anti-cancer drugs before it can harm healthy cells.
 
Roy Kaltschmidt/Berkeley LabThe chemical sponge is known formally as the ChemoFilter. It works by containing molecules with a strong affinity to the chemotherapeutic agent. In the picture shown here, the polymer material turns from a yellowish hue to a red after it binds chemotherapy drugs.
 
The idea for the first generation of ChemoFilters came about when researchers were working on polymer membranes. "We used to use this material for transporting protons in a fuel cell," said Xi Chen, who is co-author of the study. "I was really excited when I found out this could be used for chemotherapy -- this was branching out in a totally different direction."
 
Chen and the team realized that certain components of the polymer membrane had a strong negative electric charge. Like a magnet, the material works nicely to attract chemotherapy drugs that have a strong positive charge.
 
Doxorubicin, a common chemotherapy agent that’s positively charged, was a fitting model drug to test their ChemoFilter system. "In our lab experiments, the current design can absorb 90 percent of the drug in 25-30 minutes," said Chen.
 
"Doxorubicin has been around for decades. It is very well understood, and it is also very toxic," said Steven Hetts, associate professor at the University of California San Francisco, and who was the mastermind behind the ChemoFilter system. "If you get exposed to too much, when it goes through the heart you can go into heart failure.” Having a sponge that can soak up excess toxin could transform how doctors use this drug.
 


But an obvious concern is whether the sponge could negate the anti-cancer effects of the drugs on the actual tumor. For example, if the ChemoFilter is administered too soon then the chemotherapy agent won’t have enough time to act on the tumor. Timing, then, will be a crucial component to this new technology.
 
After demonstrating its effectiveness in animal studies, the ChemoFilter system received a patent from the FDA in April. The team is hopeful clinical trials will begin soon to test the device in patients. And if the device works as it’s supposed to, the team thinks it could actually increase the effectiveness of current drugs. “If you can remove a lot of the drug, you could escalate the dose of the drug you can give, for better tumor control and potentially a cure -- and you could basically eliminate any side effects,” said Hetts. 

Additional source: Science Daily
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
APR 05, 2021
Cancer
Introducing DeepTCR, the deep-learning software for T-cell receptor sequencing data
APR 05, 2021
Introducing DeepTCR, the deep-learning software for T-cell receptor sequencing data
A team from the Bloomberg~Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center is introdu ...
APR 19, 2021
Health & Medicine
Using Artificial Intelligence to Understand the Language of Cancer and Alzheimer's Disease
APR 19, 2021
Using Artificial Intelligence to Understand the Language of Cancer and Alzheimer's Disease
Cancer and Alzheimer’s disease are life-changing, and there is still much we don’t understand about what cau ...
MAY 05, 2021
Immunology
Novel 3D Bio-printed Leukemia Model Shows Potential for Treatment Testing Platform
MAY 05, 2021
Novel 3D Bio-printed Leukemia Model Shows Potential for Treatment Testing Platform
Three-dimensional (3D) printing has become a common technique over the past two decades. Now, the technique has been ado ...
MAY 08, 2021
Cancer
More evidence supports the evils of sugary drinks
MAY 08, 2021
More evidence supports the evils of sugary drinks
New research published online in the journal Gut from researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine i ...
JUN 23, 2021
Cancer
Military universal health system boasts higher survival rates for colon cancer patients
JUN 23, 2021
Military universal health system boasts higher survival rates for colon cancer patients
New results published in the American Association for Cancer Research journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prev ...
JUL 16, 2021
Cancer
Exercise Slows Growth of Bowel Cancer Cells
JUL 16, 2021
Exercise Slows Growth of Bowel Cancer Cells
Exercise releases molecules into the bloodstream that reduce the growth of bowel cancer cells, say researchers from the ...
Loading Comments...