In a new breakthrough in cancer treatment, University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM) researchers have developed an injectable ‘biogel’ that can effectively deliver anti-cancer agents directly into tumours and kill them.
The technology has already been successfully tested in the laboratory. If it works in patients, the therapy could one day revolutionize treatment for many forms of cancer.
The new biogel is liquid at room temperature and gels at 37 degrees Celsius – human body temperature.
“The strength of this biogel is that it is compatible with anti-cancer immune cells. It is used to encapsulate these cells and eventually administer them using a syringe or catheter into the tumour or directly beside it,” explained study co-author Rejean Lapointe.
“Instead of injecting these cells or anti-cancer drugs throughout the entire body via the bloodstream, we can treat the cancer locally. We hope that this targeted approach will improve current immunotherapies,” Lapointe added.
The anti-cancer immune cells, called T-cells, are produced naturally by the body and have the ability to destroy cancer cells, but they are generally too weak and too few to eradicate the cancer alone.
T cells are therefore cultivated in the laboratory — often the patient’s own cells – and then reinjected into the patient’s blood.
While this form of immunotherapy has shown promising results in cases of advanced cancer, it is not always possible to generate enough T cells.
“With our technique, we only need to administer a few dozen million T cells, instead of the billions currently required. We can also administer compounds that ‘awaken’ the immune system to fight against cancer,” Lapointe explained.
The study was published in the journal Biomaterials.