New device aims to reduce chemo deaths

By Wai Lang Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Chemotherapy

A new method being developed to deliver chemotherapy to cancer
patients without incurring side effects could also reduce patient
numbers who die from the effects of chemotherapy caused by the high
doses to tackle the cancer.

While chemotherapy remains the first choice in treating specific cancers, the treatment is also extremely toxic to the individual and great care must be taken in the administering and management of chemotherapy doses.

Researchers have previously worked on using tiny beads as a way of delivering drugs locally, but this new system shows greater promise because it could achieve better control when delivering the drug.

The method involves directly targeting cancer cells rather than allowing the drug to travel through the body where it can create the damage.

The method uses tiny fibres and beads soaked in the chemotherapy drug, which are then implanted, into the cancerous area in the patient's body.

They gradually turn from solid to liquid, releasing a regular flow of the chemotherapy chemical into the cancer site, and a much lower dose to the rest of the body.

In addition, the fibres are biodegradable and compatible with body tissue, which means they would not be rejected by the patient's body.

"Side effects from chemotherapy can be very unpleasant and sometimes fatal,"​ said Semali Perera, University of Bath​'s Department of Chemical Engineering.

"The new fibres and beads could cut out some side-effects entirely, including nausea and vomiting, and could reduce the number of people who die each year,"​ she said.

Exact figures linked to chemotherapy-related deaths are unknown as it would be difficult to ascertain what the individual died from - the cancer or the chemotherapy given to treat it.

What is known is the risk patients are put through in order to combat cancer. In many cases the chemotherapy reduces the body's ability to fight off infection, while bacteria or viruses, which are not normally dangerous, can cause devastating fevers.

Up to 65 per cent of deaths among children with myeloid leukaemia follow chemotherapy complications.

"Given that around one in eight people worldwide die of cancer, this could be a vitally important step in the treatment of this disease,"​ added Perera.

"We have now assembled a team to develop the Fibrasorb technology."

The Fibrasorb technology forms the platform of this new method and is a flexible fully resorbable device that can be formulated as a bead, a fibre or mesh, or as a tube put into the body which leads outside the body and through which drugs can be fed.

Perera added that the first clinical trials on volunteer patients with ovarian cancer in Avon, Somerset and Wiltshire could begin in the next few years and, if successful, the technology could be put into general use.

Related topics Drug Delivery Delivery technologies

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