UC Berkeley Research Team Tests Device which Acts as Sponge for Absorbing Excess Chemotherapy Drugs in the Bloodstream

A new device developed by University of California Berkeley, can be potentially used for absorbing excess chemotherapy drugs before they circulate in the bloodstream. This has shown potential to significantly reduce side effects of the chemo drugs for patients undergoing the treatment.

Chemotherapy is a part of the standard treatment procedure for diagnosed cancers. While it attacks the tumor and stops its further growth, but it also causes a great collateral damage to healthy tissues in the body as well. Oncologists and radiologists agree that chemotherapy is not exactly the most effective therapy in cancer treatment but lack of alternatives has made it the only viable option right now. Chemotherapy is riddled with massive side effects including anaemia, dysfunctional immune system, hair loss, nausea and vomiting. Although it manages to kill cancerous cells but studies have suggested that 50-80 % of chemo drugs don’t even reach the tumor and instead circulates in the bloodstream causing damage to healthy cells.

The new device developed by a team of researchers at UC Berkeley, will act as ‘sponge’ which will absorb excess chemo drugs from the bloodstream. Professor Nitash Balsara, the head of UCB’s team, said that the device is inspired by absorbers used in petroleum refining, which regularly uses absorbers to remove unwanted chemicals like sulphur. The team created 3D printed tiny cylinders, 3mm long made from poly diacrylate (ethylene glycol), with a square lattice structure inside which allows blood vessels to pass through it. But the lattice structure is coated with copolymer which attaches itself to the chemo dug and stops its passage. The device shows promises to bring down side effects of chemotherapy and opens doors for increased chemo dosage for the patients in need of it.

Doxorubicin, with brand name Adriamycin is a chemotherapy drug used for many types of cancer. The team used this drug for testing on three pigs and found that when the drug was injected in a particular vein, it flew through the bloodstream and was detected by the device. 64% of the drug was captured by the device. Prof. Balsara said that the team considered all the risk factors like thrombosis or blood clotting while developing the device and issues related to vein wall dissection and blood clots were not observed.

Cancer researchers have long been looking for good alternatives for chemotherapy, while some breakthroughs in targeted medicine which selectively kills only cancerous cells excluding the healthy ones has made much headway. But chemotherapy is going to hang around for a while. The new device offers hope for 650,000 cancer patients in USA and millions worldwide who undergo chemotherapy every year. Although much work remains to be done before the device’s roll out in hospitals the study has shown hope to reduce side effects of drugs and scope for regionally targeted high dose chemotherapy.

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