Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a new form of treatment for colorectal cancer, one of the most common types of cancer in both the United States and Europe. The new treatment involves a patch that can provide a combination of anticancer drugs, gene therapy, and photo therapy. The findings were just published in the journal Nature Materials.
Current treatment for colorectal cancer consists of surgery to remove tumors and chemotherapy. While surgery is usually very effective, it’s not uncommon for the cancer to recur. Since cancer cells can get left behind during surgery, up to 50% of cases result in recurrence. When this happens, the chance of metastasis (cancer spreading to other parts of the body) also increases. Anticancer drugs can help but have the problem of not being able to differentiate between cancer cells and normal, healthy cells. This lack of differentiation is what causes so many side effects in chemotherapy. Furthermore, most of the drugs fail to even reach the site of the tumor, making the treatment less effective.
A research team at MIT solved many of these issues with their new patch-based treatment. They created a hydrogel patch that can be placed at the tumor site. The patch contains gold nanorods that can heat up to destroy the tumor. The nanorods also produce anticancer drugs that specifically target the tumor and other cancer cells. A second set of nanoparticles, gold spheres, deliver RNA to the tumor site. The RNA turns off an oncogene (cancer-causing gene) that contributes to colorectal cancer. This form of gene therapy helps prevent recurrence.
The new patch can be used to help destroy a tumor but may also be placed at the site after traditional surgery. The patch will continue to release the combination of therapies until it finally degrades. Since the patch targets individual cancer cells and uses gene therapy, the chance of recurrence is very low. In a trial using laboratory mice, the group receiving the patch after surgery went into complete remission. Even without surgery, the patch was able to destroy tumors on its own.
These findings represent a huge step in developing better forms of treatment for certain types of cancer. The patch is noninvasive and can be used with or without traditional surgery methods. The treatment is still in the early testing stages but the authors believe the patch could seriously improve treatment and quality of life for cancer patients.
João Conde et al. Local Triple-Combination Therapy Results In Tumour Regression And Prevents Recurrence In A Colon Cancer Model. Nature Materials (2016).