Putting the lab into the patient to improve chemotherapy success (Day 341)

The fight against cancer is ongoing and I have blogged about this before; see ‘Twin track cancer attack’ and ‘Fighting lung cancer with personalised medicine’. Each new discovery we make shines more light onto effective treatments.

Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses one or more chemical substances to kill cancerous cells. It can be used in conjunction with other cancer treatments, or given alone. But as there are over 100 different chemotherapy drugs, our ability to prescribe the most effective drug to treat a particular tumour can be difficult.

MIT chemical engineers have designed an implantable device that can deliver many drugs at once, allowing researchers to determine which drugs are the most effective against a patient's tumor.
Picture Credit | MIT
MIT chemical engineers have designed an implantable device that can deliver many drugs at once, allowing researchers to determine which drugs are the most effective against a patient’s tumor.

A new device, developed by chemical engineers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), US, could provide a solution.

The device, which is about the same size as a grain of rice, is not swallowed or injected, but instead is implanted directly into a cancerous tumour, where it can directly administer small doses of up to 30 different drugs.

 

Continue reading Putting the lab into the patient to improve chemotherapy success (Day 341)

Healthcare goes 3D (Day 207)

Mesoporous silica rods
Mesoporous silica rods spontaneously assemble to form a porous 3D scaffold, as seen in this SEM image. The 3D scaffold has many nooks and crannies and is large enough to house tens of millions of recruited immune cells. Image: Harvard

Some diseases like cancer carry more than one jeopardy.

Untreated it causes harm and threatens life. Treatment too carries its own risks.

And if you’re unlucky enough to contract cancers such as lymphomas and leukaemias, even the body’s own natural defences become less effective.

Ways to stimulate the body’s immune system has been the focus of researchers at Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University.

And they’ve had success with a non-surgical injection of programmable biomaterial that spontaneously assembles in vivo to activate a host’s immune cells into a 3D structure which can help fight and even contribute to the prevention of cancer and infectious diseases such as HIV.

Continue reading Healthcare goes 3D (Day 207)

Closing the ‘pores’ on cancers (Day 186)

Polio vaccination Asianet-Pakistan - Shutterstock.com
Polio vaccination in Pakistan – one of the remaining endemic countries for Wild Poliovirus Type 1. Image credit – Asianet Pakistan – Shutterstock.com

There’s been some good news recently with the announcement of the possible eradication of Wild Poliovirus Type 3 (WPV3) by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

WPV3 has not been detected for more than two years. The last reported case of Wild Poliovirus Type 2 (WPV2) was in India in 1999.

The completion of polio eradication was declared a programmatic emergency for public health in 2012, and the international spread of Wild Poliovirus Type 1 (WPV1) was declared a public health emergency of international concern in May 2014.

The efforts needed to interrupt all indigenous WPV1 transmission are now being focused on the remaining endemic countries: Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Mankind’s ability to transform public health in this way is impressive. Let’s hope we can achieve the same results with Ebola.

Continue reading Closing the ‘pores’ on cancers (Day 186)

It’s in our genes (Day 85)

DNAThe world of genetics is fascinating and there always seems an endless stream of findings and breakthroughs with the potential for predicting and treating health problems.

This month, research published in the New England Journal of Medicine indicated women with mutations in the PALB2 gene face a one in three chance of getting breast cancer by age 70.

A team at the Institute of Cancer Research, in London, have shown 14 separate genetic mutations can greatly increase the odds of aggressive prostate cancers and form the basis for genetic screening in a similar way to breast cancer in women.

Continue reading It’s in our genes (Day 85)

Twin track cancer attack (Day 42)

PillsCurrent statistics tell us that around three identical twins are born for every 1,000 deliveries worldwide. Overall, quite low odds.

However, in the UK at least, for every 1,000 children born today, over a third will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetimes. It’s a worrying statistic and an area where chemical engineering has a role to play.

My statistical interest in twins and cancer incidence rates was prompted by a great chemical engineering story from the University of New South Wales, Australia.

Continue reading Twin track cancer attack (Day 42)